Cartoonist Matthew Inman appealed to fans of The Oatmeal to help the Tesla Science Centre at Wardenclyffe (also known as the Friends of Science East non-profit) buy back Tesla's old laboratory and convert it into a museum and science education centre.
Wardenclyffe was initially built with the aim of providing global wireless energy. Funding for the project was stopped in 1917 and the Wardenclyffe tower was demolished. The land, laboratory and foundation below the tower still remain, and recently went up for sale.
While the property costs $1.6 million, the Tesla Science Centre at Wardenclyffe received a matching grant from the New York State for $850 000 – meaning the non-profit needed to raise $850 000 in order to put in an offer. According to Inman, there is currently another offer on the table from a developer looking to turn the property into a retail establishment.
In just nine days, The Oatmeal's campaign raised more than $1 million on crowd-funding platform Indiegogo. According to Inman, at its peak, the campaign was raising over $27 000 an hour.“Nikola Tesla was the father of the electric age. Despite having drop-kicked humanity into a second industrial revolution, up until recently he's been an unsung hero in history books,” reads the motivation for the campaign.
“Even though we've already hit our goal, I plan on letting the campaign run the full 45 days. Every extra penny we earn will go toward restoring the property, building exhibits, and turning this land into something worthy of Tesla's awesomeness,” says Inman.
“The original goal of $850k was enough money to bid on the property, but it's going to take a lot more to turn it into an actual museum.”
Inman has also appealed to corporate sponsors, such as JP Morgan and General Electric, via his Web comic: “JP Morgan, you there? One hundred years ago you believed in Tesla and backed him financially. Honour his legacy and help him out again.
“General Electric: Thomas Edison founded GE and screwed Tesla out of a ton of money. It's never too late to make amends. Sponsor this museum! The Internet will love you forever, I promise.”
Inman has also appealed to Google, Tesla Motors (saying that he would give them permission to do donuts in the Wardenclyffe parking lot) and even actor Christian Bale.
“Sponsoring this museum would be the PR equivalent of having your CEO jump into an icy river and save a herd of drowning kittens. Don't you want to save some kittens?”
According to Inman, The Oatmeal site averages seven million unique visitors and 30 million page views. “In the three years TheOatmeal.com has been online, it's been read by over 100 million people and received nearly one billion page views.”
Prior to the Tesla museum campaign, Inman's comic Why Nikola Tesla was the greatest geek who ever lived went viral on the social networks. To date, the comic has been tweeted 34 000 times, posted to Facebook 588 000 times and shared on Google+ 13 000 times.
More information on the campaign can be found on The Oatmeal site here.
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