TORONTO – The Canadian Museum for Human Rights is a place of reverence and inspiration, a sombre examination of past atrocities, and a touching tribute to humanity’s capacity to persevere.
It’s also a place to catch those cute, candy-coloured pocket monsters from Pokemon Go, boasts Maureen Fitzhenry, a spokeswoman for the Winnipeg museum that’s welcoming eager Pokemon hunters to visit and explore — as long as they remain respectful of sometimes sensitive surroundings.
The museum’s “Garden of Contemplation,” an interior space of basalt rock and pools located below a massive glass cloud, has been designated as a “gym” in the Pokemon Go universe, a place where players are encouraged to visit repeatedly to battle and earn in-game currency.
Given that it’s located within a tickets-only section, Fitzhenry is happy to see gamers come by, even if they end up loitering in obvious disregard to the exhibits.
“Maybe if people are coming in to play Pokemon they may also then be able to check out our own mobile app and maybe connect with some of our educational moments and inspiring moments as well,” says Fitzhenry.
“But we really do hope and think that everyone will be respectful in the areas of the museum that house sensitive subject matter and where a respectful demeanour is appropriate.”
It’s a similar story over at the Beechwood Cemetery in Ottawa, also known as the National Cemetery of Canada, where those laid to rest include former prime ministers, Canadian Forces members and everyday citizens.
Cemetery president Roger Boult says players have been respectful so far, and as long as that continues he welcomes Pokemon fans to wander the park-like grounds.
“We have a mausoleum, we have a chapel, but it’s open to the public,” Boult notes. “If there are Pokemon in there, that’s OK. Come in and have a look.”
The augmented-reality mobile game is all about capturing cartoon monsters that seem to appear in the real world thanks to the game’s GPS and mapping capabilities. Players are encouraged to roam their city to visit so-called Pokestops to collect supplies and visit gyms to battle other players.
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Its popularity appears to be giving some arts and culture sites an added boost during the tourist season, and Boult hoped interest in his museum will extend beyond the summer months.
“We don’t want to restrict people from coming in. We want people to come in and walk around and if they’re watching their screen more than they’re looking at the flowers and the trees and the birds and the wildlife, well, all right, that’s OK too.”
Even the sacred BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Toronto, a Hindu temple that demands silence among visitors and bans sleeveless tops and shorts, wouldn’t stop players from hunting Pokemon in public areas, says a spokesman.
But he also said staff haven’t noticed an influx of Pokemon players yet, and simply attributed any general uptick in visitors to the tourist season.
One exception to the generally warm welcome for Pokemon fans has come from Corrections Canada, which tweeted a warning that players refrain from hunting at Stony Mountain Institution, a federal prison in Manitoba where players were apparently seen on the grounds.
Pokemon characters have also been spotted in Canadian police stations and hospitals, prompting polite requests that players stay safe, alert and respectful of their surroundings.
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It’s been a different story elsewhere, with the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., and Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia both explicitly asking visitors not to play the game there.
Spokespeople at both locations said they were trying to have their sites removed from the game, deeming it “extremely inappropriate” for such hallowed grounds.
There have also been concerns about Pokemon fans playing at the former German death camp Auschwitz and the 9/11 Memorial in New York City.
But there’s undeniably shrewd marketing opportunities to be had for businesses looking to attract the smartphone-toting players.
In the U.S., several small businesses have purchased in-app lures that effectively draw potential customers in search of Pokemon.
Meanwhile, Toronto businesses are all over Twitter with posts about their Pokemon connections, including the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Toronto Zoo, and countless stores and restaurants touting cute creatures waiting for capture.
A Facebook group for Pokemon Go fans was advertising a “harbourfront lure party” where players can capture the pocket monsters en masse, while the CN Tower was promoting a Pokemon Go party on Monday night.
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