Holocaust Museum: Maybe Don't Play 'Pokemon Go' Here, Guys?
Yesterday, we looked at three ways nonprofits are hopping aboard the "Pokemon Go" train in a quest to be the very best, like no one ever was (at attracting donors and raising some funds). And while many organizations have embraced the game and its players in creative ways, it turns out it might not be a good fit for every nonprofit.
For example, the Holocaust Museum.
According to The Washington Post, the D.C.-based museum is, like many landmarks and prominent public locations, a Pokestop—a place where "Pokemon Go" players can pick up in-game items, such as coins, incense and pokeballs (for capturing Pokemon). Pokestop status, which developer Niantic assigned primarily based on crowdsourced geo-tagging of popular real-world locations, has been a boon for businesses, landmarks and, yes, nonprofits, bringing loads of foot traffic and plenty of opportunities to engage new patrons.
But in the case of the Holocaust Museum, it's been rather unfortunate. Observe, via The Washington Post:
One image circulating online appears to show a player encountering an unsettling digital critter inside the museum: a Pokemon called Koffing that emits poisonous gas floating by a sign for the museum's Helena Rubinstein Auditorium. The auditorium shows the testimonials of Jews who survived the gas chambers.
The image, which appears to have originated from a now deleted post on the photo-sharing site imgur, might be a hoax: That particular Pokemon didn't appear nearby when this Post reporter visited the museum Monday afternoon, although the specific Pokemon that appears in each location does vary from time to time.
OK, so it might be a hoax. But even if it's not, the appearance of just the right Pokemon at just the right place so as to be unfathomably inappropriate is a coincidence that belies the bigger issue—namely, why on earth does anyone think it's a good idea to rock a little "Pokemon Go" in the Holocaust Museum in the first place? It's easy to see why the museum isn't pleased. And it's asked visitors to stop catching 'em all on its premises.
"We feel playing 'Pokemon Go' in a memorial dedicated to the victims of Nazism is inappropriate," Andrew Hollinger, communications director for the Holocaust Museum, told Vox. "We encourage visitors to use their phones to share and engage with museum content while here. Technology can be an important learning tool, but this game falls outside of our educational and memorial mission. We are looking into how the museum can be removed from it."
And he's not the only one. According to The Hill, three congressmen wrote a letter to Niantic asking the developer to remove the museum's Pokestop designation.
So far, there's been no word from Niantic or Nintendo, the game's co-owner. Vox reported that multiple attempts to contact either company resulted only in a canned statement with a URL for users to report "inappropriate locations or content" and a statement from Nintendo saying it had "no further information to share on this topic."
Related story: 3 Ways Your Nonprofit Can Use 'Pokemon Go'