Whether fans of the wildly popular PokemonGo smartphone app realize it or not, they are clicking on mini time capsules of their towns with every "Pokestop" they visit. Using GPS powered by Google Maps, the virtual game highlights local historic places, artwork, places of worship and nearby hotspots as Pokestops, a place gamers can visit for Pokeballs and potions to catch characters and advance levels in the game.
Museums, city buildings and usually sleepy parts of towns across the world are seeing an uptick in visitors looking for elusive Pokemon, something that has excited history buffs looking to enlighten players while they're on the hunt. In Homer, Alaska, residents are delighted the game is showcasing buildings that have since been demolished but have a special meaning to the town. Jennifer Norton worked with the Homer Council of the Arts to paint a special mural honoring popular music teacher Mary Epperson on the exterior of her piano studio in 2014. The building has been torn down and is now a parking lot, but the mural still lives on as a Pokestop, complete with a picture of the mural.
Norton says the Pokestop popped up with the mural just three months after Epperson passed away. “To know that it's continuing on as a mystical building, you know that things are still there after they’re gone, which is symbolic of Mary who has passed.” Norton adds. “It’s exciting to know that there are these things that were supposed to be a fleeting moment, but now have permanence.” To date, there have been 50 million downloads of PokemonGo worldwide.