Engaging New Museum Audiences with Pokémon Go

As a follow-up to Alexandra Rasic’s blog last week, “Is There a Place for Pokémon Go in History Museums,” I was encouraged to write about the ways in which I have employed Pokémon Go at the Aurora Regional Fire Museum. When I first heard about the game I was skeptical, however as the game built momentum during the week I knew that we had to be involved. While there have been some negative stories around Pokémon Go and museums, the advent of the game provides an opportunity for our aging institutions to attract a new generation of visitors and provides the ability to teach about museums.

A Rattata in the Aurora Regional Fire Museum
A Rattata in the Aurora Regional Fire Museum

The use of Pokémon Go at the Aurora Regional Fire Museum began towards the end of last week when I realized that wherever I went, children, teens, and adults were playing. I asked my staff and volunteers to begin their day by downloading Pokémon Go and then searching the museum for Pokémon. We soon saw that the statue in front of our museum and the fire station next to the museum were gyms and the building across the street was a Pokéstop.  Given this, one of our volunteers purchased some lures to bring Pokémon into our building. We allowed visitors into the museum to catch Pokémon on the condition that they posted on social media. The response to this was incredible, several of our followers commented how sad they were that they missed out.

fire3Once a month, Aurora Downtown organizes an event called First Fridays. First Fridays encourages businesses and cultural institutions to stay open into the evening, offering free events to the public. For the next event on Friday, August 5th, the Aurora Regional Fire Museum decided we would host a “Pokémon Take Over the Fire Museum” night. We are going to purchase lures to bring in Pokémon, hide miniature Pokémon figures throughout the museum and galleries, and encourage visitors to dress-up as their favorite Pokémon. We will be raffling off a variety of prizes to visitors who find Pokémon in the museum, dress-up, and post their finds on our social media.

Although involving our staff and developing events around Pokémon Go can be seen as straying away from our educational mission, it is a risk that needs to be taken to interest a younger generation in our museums and cultural institutions. One visitor to our museum this week noted this place is really cool and that they would need to come back to visit the museum sometime. What successes have you had with Pokémon Go? Has it helped bring in new, younger audiences?

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