The First Tesla Museum, Raised With Oatmeal


An Artist, A Scientist, A Love Story

Remember the film “Sleepless In Seattle”? This love story could be its fundraising fan fiction version.

Last week, The Chronicle of Philanthropy offered up an interactive map demonstrating How America Gives. New Yorkers ranked No. 2 on that list, with the Big Apple contributing a whopping $11.3 billion.

At the same time, Seattle resident Matthew Inman, a/k/a The Oatmeal launched a campaign on Indiegogo. Oatmeal’s campaign sought to raise match funds for a $850,00 grant from the state of New York. Together, the $1.7 million would allow The Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe (a 501(c)3 that has been trying for 15 years to purchase the real estate for Tesla’s old lab) the opportunity to outbid the other offer for the property. Inman’s home of Washington state made the No. 15 spot on America’s Giving list with $3 billion in contributions. Could the Oatmeal rally the giving power of both coasts to raise a museum for science, for a dead scientist named Nikola Tesla?

In the campaign description, Inman writes:

Tesla’s final laboratory is located in the sleepy town of Shoreham, New York.  It’s known as Wardenclyffe and it’s where Tesla attempted to build a tower that would provide free wireless energy to the entire earth. Unfortunately, Tesla lost his funding before the project was completed and in 1917 the Wardenclyffe tower was demolished.  Subsequently, the land was sold to a film and paper manufacturer.
However, the land, laboratory, and foundation beneath the tower are still there and very recently went up for sale. And right now a non-profit is trying to buy the property and turn it into a Nikola Tesla Museum. The property is listed at $1.6 million, and this non-profit has received a matching grant from New York State of up to $850k.  This means that if we can raise $850k, New York State will match us for that same amount — putting the total raised at $1.7 million.

There is currently another offer on the table from someone who wants to purchase the property potentially tear it down or turn it into a retail establishment. There is no Tesla museum in the United States, despite Tesla’s extraordinary accomplishments.  If we can outbid this other person and buy the land it will permanently be protected as a historic site and eventually converted into a Nikola Tesla Science Center.

Donations came pouring in from all over, at one point testing the limits of Indiegogo’s server. This infographic  by Melissa Anderson demonstrates that “Geeks need less than a week to build a goddamn museum.” On their blog, Indiegogo’s Andrew Nunnellyy writes:

How does someone eclipse three-quarters of a million dollars in that little time? It’s not something that can be simply attributed to virality or humor — it’s a clear sign of networks of people around the world being brought together to act quickly on an idea, project, or cause that they care about. Communities like Reddit, Twitter, Facebook, and The Oatmeal’s fans and social networks were connected through the global platform of Indiegogo — enabling “geeks” from 102 countries to spread the word, unite through a shared passion, and bring Nikola Tesla out of underdog obscurity.

As of today, there are 37 days left in Inman’s campaign, which has raised over $1 million, in addition to the matching grant from NY, made possible by tax dollars from New Yorkers.

Like “Sleepless in Seattle” we hope this love story between a man in Seattle and someone that he’s never met (in NYC) will have a happy ending. And next year, when is doling out awards for pivotal social changemakers, we hope The Oatmeal gets to represent all of you when he gets a big ol’ silvery, winged high-top, and then sticks it smack in the atrium of  the first and only Tesla museum in America. A Tesla Museum, raised by Oatmeal.

Submissions for the 2013 Do Something Awards open December 1, 2012.

If you would like to be a part of history, join the campaign.

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Philanthropologist in Chief

Building the Business of Benevolence & Bringing you the latest news in Society, Culture, Wealth & Philanthropy.

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