Gotta Catch ‘Em All on the National Mall

Sergeant Nadia Tyler, a security guard at Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, is collecting Pokémon creatures daily

Zubat at the Smithsonian Castle. Marc Bretzfelder
Doduo sighting at National Museum of American History. Fiona Meagher
"Allies in War, Partners in Peace'' statue at National Museum of the American Indian. Nadia Tyler
Exeggcute at the entrance of National Museum of the American Indian. Nadia Tyler
Pidgey at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC). Emily Li
Zubat sighting at National Museum of the American Indian. Nadia Tyler
Pidgey sighting at National Museum of the American Indian. Nadia Tyler

It’s hard to miss the people who are hunkered down on their smartphone screens hunting Pokémon in broad daylight. The National Mall in Washington, D.C., home to many of the Smithsonian Insitution's museums, is a veritable playland for the wacky creatures all sporting adorable names like Squirtle and Bulbasaur. 

Players tuned into the Pokémon Go mobile application are playing the wildly popular augmented reality game that launched earlier this month. They are catching the Pokémon critters in real locations using GPS on their smartphones. One huge fan “catching ‘em all” across the National Mall is Sergeant Nadia Tyler, a ten-year veteran of the Office of Protective Services at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. Her morning commute is her best time for collecting digital creatures and she rapidly ascended to level seven—the coveted level five gave her gym access and team status—a Mystic, of course. She shares some of her adventures and a few tips with

Did you play Pokémon before Pokémon Go was available or was the mobile application your first introduction to the game?
I had the opportunity to visit Japan while in high school, which was when I was first introduced to Pokémon. I had always wished the game was real and I was reunited with the fun-hearted and serious nature I had for the brand with the release of Pokémon Go. I’ve been having a lot of fun getting outside, connecting with other trainers and fighting for gyms in real time.

Nadia Tyler
Ten-year veteran of the Smithsonian's protective services office, Sargeant Nadia Tyler is master of the wildly popular Pokémon Go. NMAI, Nadia Tyler

Do you have a favorite location to catch Pokémon? 
Yes. It’s a three-way tie between the National Air and Space Museum, the Smithsonian Gardens and the National Museum of American History.

How many levels have you completed and what level are you currently on?
Since the release of the app, I’ve managed to complete seven levels. Commuting to work has been a lot of fun and has helped me find Poké Stops and gyms pinned to real locations around the city. While commuting, I recently found out that our neighbor, the Air and Space Museum, is a gym. I’ve teamed up with colleagues and joined Team Mystic. We’re looking forward to playing Team Valor, who currently controls the gym at the Air and Space Museum.

That’s a lot of levels! As you increase in levels, where have you obtained items that have helped you improve at the game?
Pokémon Go gives you items that will help you play the game better. Items can be gained from a number of methods including: catching and evolving Pokémon, visiting Poké Stops and winning gym battles. At Smithsonian, Poké Stops can be found at sculptures inside and outside of the museums. For instance, the Always Becoming sculpture and the bronze Allies in War statue at the American Indian Museum are popular locations. After walking on the National Mall, I found that the Smithsonian Gardens, the Freer and Sackler Galleries, the African Art Museum and the American History Museum are full of Pokémon to catch.

Is there a specific Smithsonian location where you’ve caught the most Pokémon? 
The largest museums—the American History Museum, the Air and Space Museum, and the Natural History Museum. Air and Space is definitely a gym with a lot of activity. There is speculation that the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden may be one, as well.

What do you hope to achieve by playing?
To continue to meet other players as I travel. Also, camaraderie internally with my colleagues and with museum visitors. The game opens up dialogue with people of different ages. Through Pokémon Go, our museums have become a special place for players and I hope that visitors who travel to our museums make their own art as they screenshot their Pokémon catches against a backdrop of our exhibits on display with their smartphones. I hope this will prompt our museum visitors to not just hunt Pokémon within our museum walls, but learn more about the contents on display.

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