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The Word Is Out: Language Museum Opens in D.C. | Frommer's Rendering courtesy of Planet Word

The Word Is Out: Language Museum Opens in D.C.

UPDATE, October 23, 2020: Originally scheduled to open in the spring of 2020, the Planet Word language museum in Washington, D.C., began welcoming visitors on Thursday, October 22, instead. This post, first published on February 17, 2020, has been updated below. 

A new museum dedicated to language has come to Washington, D.C.

Housed in the renovated Franklin School building—site of one of the city's first public schools—Planet Word has set a noble mission to "inspire and renew a love of words, language, and reading in people of all ages." 

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A news release bills Planet Word as the "world's first voice-activated museum," with displays such as a 22-foot-high wall of more than 1,000 words that light up and explain their origins when spoken by visitors.

In another of the 10 galleries on site, an enormous globe bedecked with thousands of LED lights poses word challenges in more than 30 languages and two types of sign language.

In the courtyard, you'll find The Speaking Willow, a tree sculpture by artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer. Walking beneath the branches, you'll hear multilingual audio from famous poems and speeches.

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Elsewhere, there's a room where you can, as Washingtonian magazine explains, "dip high-tech paint brushes into 'word palettes' and, depending on the word, paint a different scene" on the walls. "Frigid," for instance, might produce a snowstorm, while "pastoral" would get you a green meadow. Paint those words back-to-back to get an uncanny replica of a Chicago weather forecast in April.


(Rendering courtesy of Planet Word)

In keeping with Planet Word's democratic mission statement, admission will be free—though timed tickets must be reserved in advance so that the museum can control crowd sizes. To make a reservation and learn about other pandemic precautions the facility is taking, visit the Planet Word website

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The museum's location in the Franklin School building puts it in downtown D.C., next to Franklin Square and catty-corner from another noted purveyor of words, the Washington Post.

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