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A new interactive museum dedicated to words is opening in Washington DC
Posted on 13/02/2020

CultureUnited States of America

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Planet Word - an interactive museum dedicated to language - is opening in Washington DC this spring.

The word is out

The word is out
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Washington DC will soon be the home to an interactive museum entirely dedicated to language and words.

Opening on 31 May 2020, Planet Word will introduce visitors to the value, purpose, and power of words via 11 unique immersive galleries. In one room, visitors are invited to paint pictures with words; in another, visitors' skills will be tested as they try to recite famous speeches and create persuasive marketing pitches. And on the second floor of the museum, there will be a quiet space dedicated to poetry. Here, visitors can sit, relax and read as lines of poetry appear and fade on the walls.

One of the largest galleries in the building will feature The Spoken Word, a 12-foot-tall high-wattage globe where visitors are invited to explore the world and its languages. Visitors can select any language and learn culturally specific words and phrases. There are 30 languages in total to choose from, including two types of sign language.

Meanwhile, enclosed within the museum's courtyard will be a dazzling 20-foot-tall tree sculpture called The Speaking Willow. Designed by Mexican-Canadian artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, the commissioned piece will project snippets from famous poems and speeches in many different languages when visitors pass beneath its branches.

"We've got surprises galore waiting for visitors in the heart of Washington, D.C.," says founder Ann Friedman regarding the museum's interactive and voice-activated exhibits. "Through these one-of-a-kind experiences, visitors to Planet Word will thrill to the fun and beauty and power of words all around them."

Planet Word will also have an auditorium, classrooms, a restaurant and gift shop. And the best part? Admission is completely free.

A work in progress

A work in progress
Andrei Medved/123RF

According to Washington Post, the museum's construction - a restoration of the historic Franklin School - is costing more than $25 million. The location is significant for two reasons: not only is the Franklin School one of the first public schools to offer free universal education, but the former school's rooftop also happens to be the spot where Alexander Graham Bell made his first successful wireless voice transmission in 1880.

"I'm happy this building is going to live again," Friedman said. "It's going to attract people, whether they are interested in words and language or not, because they haven't been able to get inside for a decade."

Planet Word is also wanting to promote the importance of literacy, which is floundering in the United States, according to the museum's website. They quote that 21% of adults read below a fifth-grade level and 31% of 4th graders fail to perform at the basic level on national reading tests.

"Literacy is the essential gateway to early school success, high school graduation, participation in the global economy and citizenship," says Ralph R. Smith, Managing Director for Campaign for Grade-Level Reading.

"But what is magical about reading is how we move from learning to read, to reading to learn, and then loving to read. Although Planet Word will be a national museum dedicated to reading, writing, and speaking in a fun and informal setting, truly, it will be even more [...] Planet Word will be nothing less than a bold attempt to capture and share the magic."