What about PokémonGO in museums? A French example

The Musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac has ethnographic collections, but it also has popular art artefacts in its collections. For instance, among our recent acquisitions are masks from Thailand that were made by contemporary artists, working with recycled material, who also happen to merge tradionnal iconography with a Manga-related style.

Thai Masks, musée du quai Branly.
Thai Masks, musée du quai Branly.

Exhibitions and events also show interest in pop culture, as the museum aims to cover modern times. In 2014 and 2015, we had a 18-month tattoo temporary exhibition that is, for the time being, our most visited exhibition ever. It showed how tattoo is both an artform and a cultural trait shared by many, many different people around the World, not only in the Pacific Ocean (by the way, it is currently at Royal Ontario Museum, if you happen to visit Toronto or if you live there). This Spring, we had an exhibition called Matahoata, dedicated to the Marquesas Islands in French Polynesia, ending with contemporary marquesian art : for example, an artist who introduced Mickey Mouse in traditional marquesian iconography. And, we currently have a long term exhibition called Persona, which shows a lot of pop culture references, among them: Pokémons (see header image)!

While museums are always better when using their own collections, exhibitions and shows when publishing on social media websites, I do believe using pop culture and references can bring people not only to get interested in the museum (which can lead to a visit), but I think it can also help them understand our collections and our themes by showing we are not that distant from their daily life. Up to now, I posted 4 tweets (I don’t count answers) that I believe are four good reasons to post Pokémon-related content for a cultural institution. Here they are, with some comments as well:

1.  One of our exhibition displays Pokémons

[There’s no need for Pokémon GO (app) to catch’em all the ‘Persona’ exhibition, you only have to find the ‘Garden of Earthly Delights’.]

As I said earlier, there are Pokémons in a Jerome-Bosch-liked painting by artist Wolfe Von Lenkiewicz. Persona explores how human people deal with non-human entities and how we have them become ‘people’. How could I resist tweeting a joke while we do have Pokémons in one our current shows?

2. We also have Pokémon-related content in our collections

[Did you know that tanukis were at the origin of Pokémon (and Totoro)?]

The second tweet, I had it ‘on the side’ for a while, since a colleague who is a curator for Asia collections once told me about tanukis, who are traditional Japanese mythical creatures who inspired both Pokémons and some of Hayao Miyazaki’s movies such as ‘My neighbor Totoro’ and ‘Pompoko’. Quite a right time to tweet about these little devils!

3. A journalist made a Pokémon-related joke implying the museum

[Breaking news: ’20 Minutes’ tells you about some rare Pokémons’ hiding at the museum, at Centre Pompidou and at Palais de Tokyo]

A journalist of the French version of subway paper ’20 Minutes’ did a clickbait paper, pretending to reveal rare Pokémons hiding at musée du quai Branly, Centre Pompidou or Musée Picasso, while in fact luring people to discover our summer exhibitions. As it was quite nicely done, I tweeted a link to this paper, using Twitter’s code for breaking news.

4. The museum is, as others, a Pokéstop

[Our cat, our ducks and our moorhens have compagny… Why don’t you come and help us got away with them?]

That is the only tweet that really was about the app itself. Some colleagues from the Education Departement told me the museum was a Pokéstop and we had some Pokémons inside. Note that I chose not use any hashtag, nor did I mention Pokémons, and I limited to pictures of the garden.


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