Pokémon and Public History

I recently started reading the very interesting Streets of Salem blog, and this article about the Pokemon Go craze caught my eye. As a historian I’ve been fascinated by the stories I’ve heard (and the things I’ve seen with my own eyes) of people going to various historical sites, many for the first time, to catch Pokemon monsters on their phones. I admit the whole thing is a bit puzzling, but Streets of Salem has an interesting take on it. Great blog to follow, by the way!

streetsofsalem

Public history is about engaging the public with the past and its public memory, often through places, so you would think that an augmented reality game that drives people to historical sites would be welcomed by museum professionals and heritage site managers. Their reaction to Pokémon Go, however, has been decidedly mixed.While park sites seem to embrace the game and its players, several museums and sacred sites have just said no to Pokémon Go. In Washington, D.C., the United States Holocaust Museum opted out after a photograph of a poisonous-gas-emitting Pokémon named Koffing in the museum elicited quite a response online. The museum’s communications director, Andrew Hollinger, issued a statement that “Playing Pokémon Go in a memorial dedicated to the victims of Nazism is extremely inappropriate. We are attempting to have the Museum removed from the game”. Likewise, Arlington National Cemetery tweeted the following statement on July 12: We do not consider…

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