Did you know the Greenbelt Museum is a Pokestop?! We are! Education and Volunteer Coordinator, Sheila Maffay-Tuthill, discovered this earlier this week while playing the game with her son. If you’re playing Pokémon Go, an augmented reality game played on smart phones and released just this month, you know what that is. If you need some background, Wikipedia’s definition is concise. It’s a “game allows players to capture, battle, and train virtual creatures, called Pokémon, who appear on device screens as though in the real world. It makes use of GPS and the camera of compatible devices.” Pokestops are places in the game that allow you to collect needed items such as eggs, potions and more Poke Balls which will allow you to then capture more Pokemon!
On the plus side, players are out and about exploring new places, looking for Pokestops including museums, parks, and cultural sites, but the game has caused controversy, as well, because some museums and cultural sites have requested people from refrain from playing there believing it to be disrespectful. Also, unfortunately, some criminals are capitalizing on its possibilities. For us here at the Greenbelt Museum, however, we are embracing the potential new visitors.
Now what, you may ask, does an augmented reality game in 2016 have to do with a museum that interprets life the 1930s and 1940s? Animated creatures! Some of Americans’ most beloved characters made their debut in the early 20th century. Felix the Cat was created in 1918, Mickey Mouse in 1928, Porky Pig in 1935, Woody Woodpecker in 1940, and Mighty Mouse in 1942 (and many more). According to our oral histories and conversations we’ve had with people who grew up in Greenbelt, kids here spent much of each day outside exploring the woods, playing at the lake, and riding bikes along the many pathways. If a virtual game can get kids (and adults!) out and about exploring the world around them, we think that’s a good thing. Museums, of course, should be places of learning, but they can (and should!) also be places for fun and exploration, whatever the catalyst is that gets people to them.