Gator Museum Could Use Some Gator-Aid
Published on Sunday, Jul 15th, 2018
It’s “A 70-million-year-old tale waiting to be told,” according to the big bold letters on the glass of the Great American Alligator Museum. And it’s felt like it.
The museum, located at 2051 Magazine Street, has sat essentially shuttered for years. The window displays change and all signs – from social media to physical ones – insist it is opening soon. However, the “Opening Soon” signs have been up for a while, crocodile.
It’s a mystery worthy of an investi-gator.
Over the years, people in the Lower Garden District have all been keeping an eye on this reptilian repository. Many folks walk by it, wondering when “soon” will be “now.”
The museum is listed as “Permanently Closed” in the online search engine, Google. However, the museum’s operator and Facebook page boasts tantalizing, and curious, updates.
We tried reaching out to the museum. Voicemails left to the museum weren’t returned.
Preparing to launch our campaign to open the doors to The Great American Alligator Museum right here in New Orleans! pic.twitter.com/8M51znkqDP
— Alligator Museum (@AlligatorMuseum) October 8, 2013
What is known from various published reports in New Orleans is that the museum was nearly ready to open in August 2005. Then, Hurricane Katrina hit. Since then, the struggle to open the museum is apparent.
Robert McDade, museum founder and propa-gator (*ahem*), launched an Indiegogo campaign in 2014. The goal was a lofty $450,000. A produced video was created for the campaign, which gives a glimpse of the inside decor and exhibits.
What McDade got was $590 total from 10 backers.
“Well folks, our campaign has come to a close and the results are a far cry from our goal. While this might make a normal person perceive the glass as half empty, fear not for we are an optimistic bunch,” McDade said at the close of the campaign.
Still to this day, people will walk up and attempt to open the door with a small sign, which says “Opening Soon.” Passersby will huddle by the windows, trying their best to get a peek in between the cracks of the window display.
The museum’s website hints at the spectacle within — a 50-million-year-old alligator fossil from Wyoming, a 10-million-year-old fossil from Florida among a nest of gator-related items.
People who have lived in the area for 20 years have noted that the museum’s opening seems more of a myth than anything else. However, some residents testify in the court of Facebook comments that they have been privileged with the opportunity of the magical tales of scales inside.
“I got halfway in the door once about 11 years ago,” Stoo Odom, a member of the Lower Garden District Facebook group, said. “ At the time, one of the owners was a woman I worked with at a bookstore in the ’90’s. She assured me it would be open soon… 11 years ago. I love alligators and would love to see it open.”
Molly McPherson said she went in one night during the “Art for Art’s Sake” stroll on Magazine Street almost eight years ago.
“It had all sorts of alligator memorabilia – salt & pepper shakers, alligator heads, a giant alligator in the middle of the room, etc.,” she said. “It was only open that evening at that point, as far as I could tell.”
Over time, though, optimism over the opening has faded. Residents lament over the closed doors of the museum with little hope to see them unlocked.
From “Don’t get your hopes up that it will open again” to “Hang in there!”, residents view it as a local mystery and legend.
Despite the cynicism from some residents of the Lower Garden District on the museum’s grand opening, McDade seems to have always been optimistic that eventually, things will be different.
“The museum project is still underway,” the museum’s website states. “One day it will open.”
We hope it’s not 70-million-years in the making.