Ottawa museums try to get handle on Pokemon Go craze

Museums in Ottawa are trying to figure out how best to deal with the Pokemon Go craze, which has led to players buying museum tickets in the search for Pokestops and elusive new characters.

Some see interactive game as 'perfect fit,' others urge players to be respectful

A Drowzee hangs out with the dinosaurs at the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa. The museum is one of a number of institutions that have embraced the Pokemon Go craze in recent weeks. (Canadian Museum of Nature)

Zubats, Psyducks and Drowzees are known to hang out in the wild, so it makes sense the Pokemon characters would also be spotted these days at the Canadian Museum of Nature.

The Ottawa museum is just one of many educational institutions that have jumped on board the Pokemon Go craze ever since the immensely popular reality game arrived in Canada earlier this month. 

The museum is hosting a lure party this week — essentially, a big meet-up of gamers that's designed to attract new and exciting Pokemon for players to catch — and publicly tracking the species of Pokemon found in the museum on a whiteboard in the main atrium.

"[It's been] really great to have all of these people coming out here, and talking to each other, meeting each other, showing off the different Pokemon they've found," said Jillian Steele, a self-described Pokemon fanatic who's also in charge of adult programming at the museum.

"They're discovering new species — well, new species of Pokemon, I guess — and they're exploring their environments to find them. It's such a perfect fit for this type of museum."

Pokemon draw crowds during slow summer months

The summer months can be slow for museums, so Pokemon Go's emergence as a massive cultural phenomenon comes at a fortuitous time.

Institutions like Toronto's Art Gallery of Ontario and the Museum of Modern Art in New York City have proudly promoted on social media that they're home to Pokestops, checkpoints where gamers can snatch up new Pokemon for their virtual menagerie.

But not all museums are as equally gung-ho about Pokemon Go, especially those museums that focus on more serious topics.

"We recognized the phenomenon for what it is. It's a great opportunity to attract new audiences," said Yasmine Mingay, director of public affairs at the Canadian War Museum.

"That said, given what we do at the war museum and the stories that we tell here, we expect that there will be the respect that's needed in the museum — as there always has been from our visitors."

Roland Caters, 10, and his mother Gina Bies hunt for Pokemon in the parking lot of the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa. (Mario Carlucci/CBC)

So far, Pokemon Go players who've visited the museum have been respectful, said Mingay. The museum is home to "a number" of Pokestops, she said, and staff have no plans to ask they be removed.

Players likely should avoid hunting for Pokemon at the nearby construction site for the National Holocaust Monument though. The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum has told Pokemon Go aficionados that it's "inappropriate" to play the game on their grounds, and has said they're looking into having the museum removed from the game altogether.

'Completely Pokemon friendly'

Back at the Canadian Museum of Nature, Steele says the eight Pokestops on the premises — as well as a Pokegym, where players can have their Pokemon fight each other — make the museum "completely Pokemon friendly."

She says she's drawn to the game's interactive, sociable nature — and the fact the game's creator wanted to become an entomologist doesn't hurt, either.

"Not only does it get you out of the house, but it gives you a really nice launching point for social interaction with the people you meet."

With files from Mario Carlucci