On embracing Pokémon GO at Maine Historical Society

PokÇmon-Go-logo

Maine Historical Society is embracing the Pokémon GO excitement around our fair city of Portland, Maine, and see it as a way to engage new audiences. We’re especially lucky to have many pokéstops nearby and a gym in the historic Monument Square across the street.

MHS PG Map

During the August 5 First Friday Art Walk, we’re hosting a special Pokémon GO meetup with lures, activities, a charging station, free wifi, themed snacks, and a chance for players to interact with our gallery exhibitions and to explore the Longfellow Garden. We’re asking guests to think about Maine’s history, our collection, and exhibitions while playing in their virtual reality, Which team might Henry Wadsworth Longfellow have been on and why? or  If Pokemon were around during the Great Portland Fire of 1866, which ones could have helped? We’re looking for players to relate the concepts of the game, like using water pokémon to battle against a fire pokémon, to themes in our history.

PG at MHS FFAW

Pokémon have been spotted around our campus in our store, Longfellow garden, and galleries–they’re pretty adorable. Our marketing staff share in-game screen captures on Instagram and Facebook using the hashtags #makinghistory #shopandplay #historyisfun and of course #mainehistory and #pokemongo (we’re @mainehistory).

MHS_Store Paras

In order to best serve the needs of our community, we reached out to Pokémon GO Facebook groups and asked members: what would you like to see MHS do for you on our campus? One compelling response was that there are tons of Pokéstops at monuments, landmarks, and other historical points of interest but most people don’t get to learn any of the history as they’re playing, and that’s something we can provide. We can share that information in those groups and on our own social media pages Did you know the Pokéstop at the Time and Temperature building was built in 1924 as the Chapman Building, once the tallest in the city? It can be seen as part of the Portland’s skyline from as far as Peaks Island!, as illustrated handouts and person-to-person engagement at our events, and through targeting store marketing. The timing of a new book we’re carrying in our store about the history of Portland couldn’t have been better: we’re promoting Walking Through History: Portland, Maine on Foot as the perfect companion guide for Pokémon trainers in Portland to learn all about the city’s history with this brand new publication by Paul Ledman ($20, available in our store and online). Of course, we’re also pointing players in the direction of our Brown Library for more in-depth research!

MHS_Pidgey and Book

Pidgey’s favorite book is “Walking Through History”

While we know that this trend isn’t evergreen, we’re excited to lean into the unknown and try this out! We’re grateful to other cultural organizations for paving the way over the last two weeks and convincing us to join in the fun, and to Walter Chen at Inc.com for helping us realize the biggest message: By providing a space of excitement today, we know we’ll be seeing the faces of our new audiences in days, weeks, and years to come.

-Dani Fazio, MHS Creative Manager • You can reach Dani at dfazio@mainehistory.org