A Linguistics Museum Is Coming to Washington D.C.

Dinomite via Wikimedia Commons // GFDL
Dinomite via Wikimedia Commons // GFDL / Dinomite via Wikimedia Commons // GFDL

Museums are great places to learn about history, science, and even math, but if the language arts were your favorite subject in school, there are fewer options. As City Lab reports, philanthropist Ann B. Friedman is hoping to change that with a new institution dedicated to all things linguistics. Washington D.C. officials recently announced that the historic Franklin School building downtown will serve as the home for Planet Word.

At the free museum, visitors of all ages and reading levels will find immersive exhibits and activities meant to inspire a love of language.

"Visitors will hear the hottest spoken-voice poets, listen to authors read from their newest books, and have an opportunity to enroll in classes on songwriting, storytelling, or sign language," according to the museum’s website. "They’ll create a marketing campaign, listen to themselves give a famous speech, or climb a rhyming word wall. Visitors will solve problems by being forensic linguists or visiting our in-house language research lab. When it’s time for a break, snacks, and meals chock-full of wordplay will be available at the museum café."

Linguistics is more than just a quirky theme to set Planet Word apart in a city of museums. It’s also a mission that’s close to the hearts of the people behind the project. According to the museum, 21 percent of adults read below a fifth-grade reading level, and according to The Annie E. Casey Foundation, kids who don’t read proficiently by third grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school. Planet Word emphasizes that the space is meant for all types of visitors, including non-English speakers. CEO and Founder Ann Friedman says on the website:

"Where would we be without words? We would be less human. Without words we couldn’t communicate precisely and in our own distinctive style. We couldn’t read, write, talk, debate, joke, rhyme, sing, pray, chant, or cheer."

She goes on to describe some of the activities the museum will offer including climbing a Tower of Babel, crawling through a prepositional playground, and identifying what word you use to describe a "hoagie." It’s hard to imagine what some of these exhibits might look like in reality, but logophiles will know soon enough: The museum is expected to open to the public by winter 2019.

[h/t City Lab]