Museums: Jumping on Band Wagon or Going with Trend #PokemonGo

Well this was a weekend and ½ – I thought most of the social media world would be consumed with sports – either Euro2016, Wimbledon or Grand Prix – but then I started seeing lots of PokemonGo sharing.

Wait, what?

Pokemon for those that don’t remember are characters from the 1985 tv show. As a Muppet Fan, I don’t judge those who are older and still in love with characters from their youth.

This morning I asked:

How long before museums feel they have to hop on the #PokemonGO bandwagon? 🙂

UPDATE July 15:

  • Privacy issues have been resolved
  • It’s now available in the UK
  • It’s bringing new people to historic sites (I personally know this as heard young people -teens- walking around my historic town saying they never knew Bridgnorth had so much history!),
  • Museums are still trying to engage without being creepy
  • Everyone is trying to research why PokemonGo is so hot (my answer:  right timing, right place – AR tech is there -ok a little buggy- Pokemon is a great storyline and those who grew up with it are now at that ‘it’s cool again stage’ [as a Muppet fan I can totally relate!].
  • Some visitors are complaining but they are the ones that hate MuseumSelfie and other fun so no sympathy here 🙂
  • This is going to have other museums look to AR for solutions and I’m not convinced they should right now – at least not on their own (for their own app)
  • Martha Henson is doing a great round up of post – see here
  • You can now add a request stop (and presumably take a site off?) – see here
  • Now available in Italy, Spain and Portugal! 

PokemonGo is the number one app and even though it’s not officially available (only in US, Australia & New Zealand) but other countries have managed work arounds (aren’t we’re a  clever society). [Edit to add: rumours are UK will be available this week.] [UPDATE IT’S AVAILABLE IN UK and boy do we know it!]

My original question about museums using PokemanGO still goes unanswered. For me, I feel if your collection is relevant then yes! But please please please don’t force a fad into your museum if your visitors won’t appreciate it. There is a difference between jumping on a bandwagon and being ahead of a trend – know the difference.  But do know the faster the bubble grows the harder it will burst (aka security and stranger danger concerns coming up now.) 

Should all museums do this? Of course not! This is almost tailored made for some museums though and by all means they should jump on the fun and go! Or be more like VAM and ask your visitors what they want:

Pokémon just did museums a huge favor (maybe) from VAM
Pokémon just did museums a huge favor (maybe) from VAM

Is your collection right for this?  Would your visitors mind? Do you normally cater to families, young people?  The public can smell if you’re doing this for legit reasons or just to be in the media.  Please do encourage PokemonGo if you or your visitors finds one though!

Credit: Brooklyn Museum Instagram
Credit: Brooklyn Museum Instagram

Just don’t be one of these museums if you’re going to do it:

Not sure who to credit with this but thank you!
Not sure who to credit with this but thank you!

I’ll probably add more to this as this grow, but for now, I’ll leave you with this:

When you’re thinking about adding PokemonGO to your museum or venue, remember you might find yourself explaining why the app is asking for a lot of permissions (camera, all contacts, etc). It’s all relevant to the game of course but people are more astute with permissions these days. (It’s more for demographics than stalking but still.) [Credit: Pokemon Go wants to catch (almost) all your permissions]

Edit to add: I already mentioned the security which seems to be growing as a concern.  As the app is only available in NZ, Australia and US other countries are downloading the app … in creative ways.  Before as there have been reports of malware on several. 

Additionally, be sure you’re aware of what you’re clicking when you give the app privacy permissions – it’s quite a lot! 

And not that it’s totally relevant to museums and PokemonGo, but I just loved the title of this article:

The numbers prove it: People would rather catch Pokémon than catch a date

Screen Shot 2016-07-11 at 11.15.11


Edit to add:

Said I would update and remarkable how much can happen in one day!

Additionally there has been a lot of discussion on museums finding PokemonGo in their venues – that is great!  My concern isn’t about museums having fun (and if you know anything about me you shouldn’t have asked that) but that some will look into how to force this hot news to fit a remit that just isn’t the museums personality.

What are your thoughts? 


  1. Judy

    I don’t think museums have to jump on the Pokemon bandwagon, but there is a lot of potential in using geocaching at museums to aid in education. I was on the app team at my previous place of employment and suggested a game that uses geocaching to have visitors look for items that pertain to the collection or story the museum is trying to tell. It could be a great way to get people learning and build community. However, they all thought geocaching was silly. Museums don’t have to jump on the bandwagon but they can certainly use the tool!

  2. Alec Ward

    Totally agree with you on this.

    I’m a massive Pokemon fan, being of the Pokemon generation, so I’m really enjoying this app.

    However, I’ve noticed (myself included, occasionally) that most people using the game are glued to their phones – looking for Pokemon. So I can see issues with actively inviting people into the museum space to use the app. Mostly that people might not actually be looking around, or engaging, rather just aimlessly wandering around staring at their screens. I’m sure there will be museums coming up with some inventive ways to get the best of both worlds, mind.

    It’ll probably increase visitor numbers, though. So I guess it depends on the end game!

  3. Pingback: Pokémon Go in your museum: you can’t replicate it but you can work with it | martha henson: blog

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