I’ve been playing Pokemon for the last 20 years. I still have my old copies of Pokemon Red, Blue and Yellow hidden away in the loft somewhere, and the more recent incarnations of the popular monster catching franchise are still constant features on my more up-to-date Gameboy.
Now, if you know anything about the game, you know one thing: you gotta catch ‘em all.
You know what? It’s likely that this collecting aspect of the game might have something to do with my love of museums. I’m sure you could find a link somewhere…
What you might not know, is that museums have always been a part of the Pokemon world. In the first generation, in Pewter City, one of the first towns you come to, there is a museum. The Pewter Museum of Science gets a bit of a face-lift in the SoulSilver version, but at its heart, it is the same dusty natural history museum we visited way back in 1995.
When we first visit the museum, there’s not much to do. It’s not until later in the game that the museum’s true purpose reveals itself; it brings fossilised Pokemon back to life. If that’s not a metaphor for what museums do, I don’t know what is!
Naturally these fossilised Pokemon resemble dinosaurs.
Well, Aerodactyl does at least.
What I like most about stopping at this museum, is that the player gets a lot out of a repeat visit, and that coming back when you’ve got a bit more experience reaps incredible rewards. “Kids – keep visiting your museums!” is the message that’s coming through loud and clear.
That covers generations 1 and 2, the Johto and Kanto regions, but what about later versions of the game? The other regions?
Hoenn, from generation 3 and the revamps Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire, has the Lilycove Museum. We’ve moved from Natural History to Art here, and from an early point to a late mid-point level. If I was going to analyse this, I might say that the game is suggesting that somehow Art Galleries are more grown-up than Natural History Museums. I might say that, but I won’t. Too many people love dinosaurs…
Our next stop on our Pokemon Museum world tour is Pokemon Diamond, Pearl and Platinum, and the Sinnoh region. Here we find the Oreburgh Mining Museum.
In many ways it’s a re-hash of what we found in Pewter City, it exists as a way to revive fossilised Pokemon. There is, however, a fresh twist on the museum format. Before we found very traditional museums, focusing on dinosaurs and art. Those are the things museums are supposed to cover, right? The Oreburgh Mining Museum is our first look at the Pokemon world celebrating its industrial history.
The focus on mining and rocks is a nice nod to Brock, the rock type Gym Leader from Pewter City, our very first Pokemuseum. When I first visited Oreburgh Mining Museum, I had a sense of nostalgia, but it wasn’t until later, when I had a chance to think, that I realised why.
Interestingly, the Oreburgh Mining Museum is the first time we have a Pokemuseum presenting the player with actual information, namely, how coal is made.
Still with me? We’re going to travel to Unova, the home of Pokemon’s 5th generation, colour-coded Black and White. Yes, the Museum still exists as a way to revive your fossils, and we’re back to pokemon-world-natural-history-museum fare. So far, so familiar. I can almost feel you stifling a yawn. I know I am. But wait! What’s that? A Dragonite skeleton?
Yes, that’s what a long-dead Dragonite looks like, in case you were wondering.
But wait, there’s more!
The museum is actually where you find the gym – and the gym leader is “an archaeologist with backbone” (note, it really should be palaeontologist). The gym leader is the museum’s curator! The gym leader/curator is a woman! She’s a woman of colour too! Leonora is quite clearly a #BossGymLeader, also, a #BossCurator.
This is by far the most progressive museum in the Pokemon world. To be honest, it would be an incredible thing to see in the real world, where women and minorities are sadly, sorely, inexcusably lacking amongst the cultural sector’s leadership.
OK, so at the beginning of this post I didn’t expect things to develop into a rant about the lack of diversity in museums.
We’re nearly there, one more generation to go. Our final stop (for now) is Kalos, the setting for Pokemon X and Y. It, too, has a museum. It’s the Lumiose Museum in Lumiose City, the largest Poketown to date.
Like Hoenn, this region’s museum looks at art. Story-wise, it doesn’t add anything, there are no pokemon to be revived (although there is a TM to pick up). What we see here is the gallery space used as a world building device, as a way to understand this fictional universe we’re temporarily existing in.
Making sense of the world, which, like bringing dead things to life, is surely every museums raison d’etre?
What really makes the Lumiose Museum worth a visit is the comments from the other people in there. Isn’t this the level of enthusiasm we all strive for?
So these are the museums and galleries in the Pokemon world. Some are more interesting than others, but the same can be said about real world museums too. Interestingly, you can find Pokemon in museums in the real world – the Computer Game Museum in Berlin Computer Game Museum in Berlin has the original games on show and now that Pokemon Go! Is a thing, I wonder what sorts of creatures will pop up in our museums and galleries. Will we see an Aerodactyl or a Wailord in the Natural History Museum? Will Smeargle look for inspiration in the Tate? Will we see a Cofagrigus haunt the Egyptian galleries of the British Museum? Only time will tell…