Elon Musk to donate US$1m to cartoonist’s dream of a Tesla museum

11 Jul 2014

Elon Musk, CEO, Tesla Motors, at the Web Summit in Dublin in 2013. Photo by Conor McCabe Photography

Yesterday, 10 July, would have been Nikola Tesla’s 158th birthday. It was also a landmark day in cartoonist Matthew Inman’s campaign to build a museum dedicated to the revered inventor, thanks to a contribution from Tesla Motors’ CEO.

Inman recently published a review of the Tesla Model S electric car on his illustrated blog, The Oatmeal. In part 2 of this review, Inman put out a plea to Elon Musk – CEO and chief product architect of Tesla Motors – to donate to the foundation of a museum dedicated to the Serbian-American inventor from whom the company borrows its name. The plea also contained a letter from William Terbo, the last surviving relative of Tesla and a board member of the Tesla Memorial Society.

Inman has been passionately pursuing this project since 2012 when, after publishing a wildly popular comic about Tesla (the man, and a hero of the cartoonist’s), the scientist’s former laboratory in New York, known as Wardenclyffe, went up for sale. Fearful this would lead to a cultural landmark going to private buyers who would raze it to the ground in favour of a shopping centre, Inman launched a crowdfunding campaign to buy the property and turn it into a Nikola Tesla museum.

The campaign was a runaway success, capturing the hearts of the many Tesla fans that populate the internet, and, at its peak, was raising US$145,000 a day. Musk himself was even one of the campaigns 33,000 funders, pledging US$2,500.

The US$1.37m raised was used to buy the property. However, this left the campaign with little funds left to actually build a museum, which has been estimated to cost US$8m.

Musk responded to Inman’s request for support with a tweet that he would be happy to help out. This week, Inman spoke with the business magnate directly and confirmed a donation of US$1m and a commitment to build a Tesla Supercharger station to charge the motor company’s electric cars in the museum’s car park.

An online campaign to build the Tesla Science Centre at Wardenclyffe continues, it’s just now that little bit closer to its goal.

Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.