Spaceport Alpha, home to a virtual aerospace museum created in great part by real aerospace industry engineers, which has existed in SL since 2006 (at right, what it looked like then), recently disappeared completely from Second Life. Yesterday I got in touch with Katherine Prawl, who's been with the project since inception, and she gave me a good summary of what happened. As is often the case with Sim Deathwatch stories, Spaceport Alpha and its sister sim Spaceport, home of the International Spaceflight Museum, were victims of Linden Lab's virtual land tier fees, but other factors were also involved. Most interesting (and tragic) to me: The IRS refused to grant non-profit tax exempt status to the virtual world museum, since it didn't have a real life physical presence. (I wonder, does the same rule apply to fees related to non-profit websites?)
After the break, read Katherine's full statement on the end of the International Spaceflight Museum. She also mentions the effort to restore the Museum to SL, but from what I can gather, that may not be feasible. I've encouraged her and the other volunteers to participate in Comments, to update us all on its status. Click to read on, and comment!
"After nearly six years, Spaceport Alpha, home of the International Spaceflight Museum, together with Spaceport Bravo (a year younger), disappeared from Second Life. These sims represented the completely volunteered efforts of over 100 talented and committed residents, as well as contributions from many more hundreds of supporters.
"What happened? How could such a highly-acclaimed and beloved destination just go black? It goes back a few years, to the decision to apply for US tax-exempt status as a 501(c)(3) corporation. After nearly a year and a half of work, incorporating, filling out forms, answering questions, and of course paying fees to the government as well as to Linden Lab, the IRS decided not to grant the tax-exemption because the museum only existed in the virtual world, without a "real life" physical presence. (This was in spite of our having a "real life" corporation!) Subsequently, Kat Lemieux (Kat Prawl IRL) resigned as president and was replaced by Paradox Olbers (SL name). Kat became Treasurer, but later resigned that position as well when she went back to grad school and didn't have time to do the job.
"Things went along pretty well for awhile; Paradox managed to find donors who funded the sims for over a year, but then he had some personal problems (N.B. - I don't feel comfortable explicating that without Paradox's permission, although he did tell me what was going on. It's serious), and the payments to Linden Lab lapsed for months. The first we knew about the problem was around Jan. 13th, when the sims went offline. I tried to log into the land-owning alt's account, but it was disabled for non-payment. At that time, the amount due was over US$1,000, far beyond the means of the now-defunct corporation or the willingness of any of the planning group to pay."
As to what (if anything) can be done to save the Museum now, here's where they stand:
"While a number of people have expressed regret for the loss, and some have offered to pay the fees, we are still in the process of trying to figure out what offers to accept, and how to proceed. Most of the past leaders encourage us to scale back to one sim, retiring exhibits that we don't have complete permission to copy/transfer in SL or to other grids. Some think we should move to another grid that is cheaper, keeping only a placeholder/marketing venue in SL. What we finally do probably depends on funding, but also on how many people are willing to continue volunteering, and of course, on whether Linden Lab even will restore the sims if and when we pay off the past due account. It's a sad ending, if that's what happens, but perhaps after such a long time on a shoestring budget, depending completely on volunteer workers and donations, it is inevitable, and we should simply be grateful for the time we enjoyed one of the best builds in the virtual world. We certainly have lots of photos and machinima to show for it, as well as stories and lasting friendships."
I believe there will be updates to this story soon, so please stay tuned.Tweet