So you work at a historic site and want to take advantage of Pokémon Go, but you have no idea where to start. Maybe you’ve never tried to integrate an app with your exhibits, or perhaps your Pokémon knowledge is so slight you don’t know a Mankey from a Magnemite – do not fear. This helpful guide will explain the app and explore some ways to enhance public engagement and visitorship.


Screenshot from the mobile phone game "Pokemon Go"To start off, Pokémon Go is a spin-off mobile app from the popular video game franchise, Pokémon. You might have heard of Pikachu, but there are many more Pokémon characters; 151 are featured in Pokémon Go alone. The point of the game is to travel around the world and capture Pokémon using poké balls.

Pokémon Go, however, is the first entry in the franchise that actually allows players to travel the real world. Players navigate their digital avatars on a GPS-connected map by walking around with the app open, allowing them to encounter and capture wild Pokémon. When a player tries to capture a Pokémon, the app uses players’ mobile phone cameras to give the impression of a Pokémon appearing the area around them; a feature known as augmented reality (AR).


Screenshot from mobile phone game "Pokemon Go"So what does this have to do with museums and historic sites? Well, besides wild Pokémon, there are two other features that occur on the game map, PokéStops and gyms. These features are tied to specific geographic landmarks and play important roles in the game. PokéStops allow players to collect additional items and gyms allow players to battle other Pokémon, giving them other rewards.

When you download and fire up the app, you might find that your site or museum is already listed as a PokéStop or gym. This is a good thing if you plan on taking advantage of Pokémon Go as players might be inclined to come visit your site!

If, for whatever reason, you do not want your site to be involved with the game you can request a removal of a PokéStop or gym by going to this website; this may be of interest for sites of difficult or sacred history.


In the Game

So your site has a PokéStop or gym, how can you get players to come besides pointing out that you have these things on social media? One way is to offer benefits to players. This can be both in game and out of game. If you’re site has a PokéStop you can place a lure in it, which will attract both Pokémon and players to your site. Museum Hack elaborates on how to do that and several more ideas.

Out of the Game

There are a variety of out of game benefits that you can offer to players to encourage them to visit your site. Pokémon Go drains significant amounts of battery power from player’s phones, so any location that can offer phone charging will be very useful for frequent players. The app also uses a lot of data, so public Wi-Fi will be a big draw as well. Consider hosting a Pokemon specific event with discounts and perks for players.


Screenshot from mobile phone game "Pokemon Go"The app also has a camera feature, allowing players to take fun photos of Pokémon interacting with the environment. Because of their interesting landscapes and environments, historic sites especially can take advantage of this feature through photo contests. Think up a set of criteria and challenge visitors to take pictures of Pokémon in various locations. Winners could have their photos featured on your website, social media, or publications, or receive a prize from your gift shop.

Of course, just because Pokémon Go gets someone in the door, it doesn’t necessarily translate to repeat visitorship, so make sure to advertise your own institution. Even without the app, visitors might find themselves excited about what you have to offer besides Pokémon! In the end, Pokémon Go is what you can make of it, and while there is no sign that it’s slipping in popularity, we don’t know when the next AR game will hit the app store, so get out there and catch ‘em all!


This post was written by Benjamin Israel, an intern with Preservation Maryland, who has developed and deployed our current digital archive workflow, and processed over 1500 photos from our collection that are now available on Flickr. He is graduate of St. Mary’s College of Maryland. Learn more about Ben and our intern program here: