Jane Alcorn, president of the Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe nonprofit, has been working for years to spread the word on the importance of preserving the history of Nikola Tesla and his Wardenclyffe lab in Shoreham. Even she couldn't imagine how quickly things would take off after finding the right people to help support the cause.
Web comic creator Matt Inman, known as The Oatmeal, considers Tesla one of his heroes. After realizing the Wardenclyffe property has gone up for sale after being cleared by the Department of Conservation, and that Alcorn's group received a matching grant from New York State of up to $850K to purchase the property, he began a fundraiser. It started last week on indiegogo.com, and after just 20 hours they had raised $400K towards their goal of $850K.
"It’s been more than we could’ve expected," Alcorn said. "We weren’t sure how much we could raise but never really thought we could get this far. We’re delighted that there are so many people out there that understand how important this site is and how important it is to build a science future onto science's past.
"The virality of it is continuing and it's outstanding. We’d been working a long time trying to make people more aware of Tesla, the lab and the importance of saving it. We’re really grateful to Matt Inman to bringing this to the public eye in the way that we were unable to do."
With 40 days still remaining, over $730K has already been raised as of Monday afternoon, and Alcorn is hoping to not only reach the goal but exceed that to help further fund the museum project.
"Not only do we need the matching funds but there will be certainly many other costs in this project," she said. "Plus we want to make the site safe and secure, begin the cleanup of the vegetation and the buildings as soon as we could but it's going to take a lot of preparation to do that, and obviously that means money. We’ll see how high we can go with this."
Councilwoman Jane Bonner is thrilled at the success of the campaign, and pleased that allowable changes in the Route 25A Land Use Plan would help make this museum possible.
"I think it's a great thing," Bonner said. "The way it’s zoned now they could never have a museum on the property, but that would change in the land use plan."
As far as a timetable goes, Bonner said the zone change, which is a recommendation in the plan, would be implemented once the group purchases the property and goes in to build a museum.
The popularity of Tesla and the awareness of the importance of his accomplishments have grown exponentially, evidenced by the rapid pace at which this fundraiser grew. With , Tesla himself, almost 60 years after his death, has gone viral.
"It shows the power of the internet," Alcorn said. "We’ve learned that you shouldn’t give up, because you never know if the next person you reach out to will be the one to make your dream happen."