This year, the Boy Scouts of America celebrates its 100th anniversary and has teamed up with the Smithsonian Insitution to create ScoutQuest, an “interactive citywide hunt” this Saturday and Sunday, July 24-25, in Washington, DC. Uncovering “links between Scouting and some of our greatest national treasures,” participants will seek out QR codes in eleven locations on or near the National Mall. By collecting codes, players increase their chances of winning a mountain bike.
Sponsored by AT&T and the smartphone company HTC, ScoutQuest involves six US government locations, including the National Air and Space Museum, the Museum of American History, and the relatively new Museum of the American Indian. Two of DC’s private museums—the National Museum of Crime and Punishment and the (highly interactive) International Spy Museum—are also included in the itinerary, as are two Boy Scout landmarks. The two private museums may or may not be charging their usual admission fees, but all the government-run museums are free, and the Boy Scout locations are public spaces.
The Smithsonian Institution has been something of a vanguard in weaving interactive, collaborative, and transmedia elements into the museum-going experience. The highly regarded alternate reality game Ghosts of a Chance from 2008 involved puzzles and ciphers integrated with exhibits at the American Art Museum and used text messages for game play. More than a scavenger hunt, a half-naked trailhead for Ghosts of a Chance dropped at ARGFest 2008 in Boston. Players from around the world were asked to create and photograph their own artifacts, which were then integrated into the narrative. Even now, two years after the full alternate reality game, a module version of the scavenger hunt is run at the museum occasionally, or at the request of groups. The American Art Museum is also participating in ScoutQuest this weekend.
A map of all the ScoutQuest locations is available here, but interested players should probably start at “Adventure Base 100,” which will be located just north of the Washington Monument. The event will be playable on July 24th and 25th during museum hours (generally 9am to 5pm, but some museums may have extended summer hours).