Written by Kaitlyn Lucey, Teen Leader
Long before people could obtain a wealth of information and knowledge in a device that fits in one’s pocket, humankind looked to other sources of entertainment and intellect. Above all, nature rose to the occasion, as it was readily available and ever present. John James Audubon, the central focus of this summer’s pop-up exhibition on Governors Island, Audubon: Birdman for a Fledgling Nation, looked to nature to fulfill his role as both a legendary naturalist and ornithologist.
As a Teen Leader for the New-York Historical Society, I was responsible for acting as both an educator and an expert in the Audubon exhibition. Within the space, visitors could learn about ornithology—the study of birds— Audubon’s art techniques, and of course, the history of the time period in which Audubon lived. In order to be successful as a leader, I had to be able to speak to and teach visitors about any of these facets of the exhibition.
One challenge I faced working in the space was capturing the attention of younger visitors who stopped by the exhibition. At first sight, an exhibit centered on the evolution of ornithology in 19th-century America lacks the same amount of allure than that the aforementioned iPhone does. My job — and hope — was to engage all visitors, even the uninterested ones, through educational activities and conversation in order to bring the exhibition to life. At first, I really struggled on how to accomplish this task.
And then it hit me.
Pokemon Go is not that different from Audubon’s ornithological travels, as strange as it may sound. Consider the actual process of the popular app: a player is required to go outside, into nature, and “capture” different species to add to their collection. That’s not too different from what Audubon did — Pokemon Go just utilizes modern technology and came into being almost two hundred years after Audubon created his masterpiece, Birds of America. No big deal in the scheme of things.
It was with this in mind that I realized Pokemon Go was the key to piquing the interest of younger, seemingly uninterested visitors to Audubon: Birdman for a Fledgling Nation. Instead of struggling to foster a natural and captivating conversation with these visitors, I used Pokemon Go as my secret weapon. I found this to be very effective, as it helps to bridge the gap between modern day and Audubon’s time by delivering history in terms that younger generations understand. By the end of summer, I experimented with this conversation starter hoping that it might lead to an effective and engaging educational experience for both the visitor and me, and I’d say it was a success.