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Now a museum in DC dedicated to language and reading

Washington DC: Planet Word, a  museum dedicated to the power, beauty, and fun of language and to showing how words shape the human experience, has opened its doors to the public in Washington DC.

Housed in the National Capital’s historic Franklin School, the museum is the world’s first voice-activated one, featuring immersive galleries and exhibits that will engage visitors of all ages in experiencing words and language from a wide range of perspectives. General admission is free.

Among the museum’s voice-activated exhibits is “Where Do Words Come From?” a 22-foot-tall talking word wall that shares the story of the English language through a conversation with visitors and extraordinary light effects.

Other highlights include an acoustically-sealed room where visitors use a teleprompter to deliver one of eight historically significant speeches; a karaoke lounge where music lovers will learn secrets of great songwriting; and a secret poetry nook hidden in the stacks of a magical library.

In other galleries, visitors can create an advertising campaign, literally paint with words using “smart” paint brushes, and converse with native speakers of widely spoken and endangered languages.

According to Planet Word founder and CEO Ann Friedman, “Democracy depends on literate citizens. I hope that Planet Word can provide a forum for civil discourse and a place where our community, in all its vibrant diversity, can gather to share the words that bridge differences and forge solutions.”

The museum held a mostly virtual ceremony to commemorate its public opening in late October. This event featured remarks by DC Mayor Muriel Bowser and founder Ann Friedman. It also included remarks by writer and actress Anna Deavere Smith and a performance by spoken word artist Charity Blackwell, as well as a musical performance from Renee Fleming, a freestyle hip hop performance from rapper Christylez Bacon, and a poetic dedication written for the occasion by Naomi Shihab Nye.

The non-profit museum supporters including former President Barack Obama, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the Grammy-winning musician Paul Simon also made surprise virtual appearances.

Among the museum’s voice-activated exhibits is “Where Do Words Come From?”, a 22-foot-tall talking word wall that shares the story of the English language through a conversation with visitors and light effects. (Photos: Planet Word)
Among the museum’s voice-activated exhibits is “Where Do Words Come From?”, a 22-foot-tall talking word wall that shares the story of the English language through a conversation with visitors and light effects. (Photos: Planet Word)
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