New non-profit museum is dedicated to language, reading

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BY SIDDHI JAIN
Washington, Nov 17 (IANSlife)
Planet Word, a non-profit 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.
Housed in Washington, D.C.’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.
Founded on the belief that literacy is fundamental to the health of democracy, it aims to inspire and renew a love of words, language, and reading. Appreciation for the power of language fosters empathy and encourages civil discourse. By engaging people of all ages with language, Planet Word encourages visitors to both fall in love with the joy and whimsy of words and understand how vital they are to American society and to our world.
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. This event featured remarks by District of Columbia 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.
Planet Word is the world’s first major museum taking a high-tech approach to bringing language to life. It features ten immersive learning galleries designed by exhibit design firm Local Projects which use technology in imaginative, ingenious ways to reimagine the modern museum experience.
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.

(Siddhi Jain can be contacted at siddhi.j@ians.in)

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