When Ann Friedman retired from teaching, she knew she wanted to continue her work promoting literacy. But how could she find something that would engage young people? Then she thought, what about combining technology and learning in a way that would make language “cool”? The result: Planet Word, an interactive museum of words and language that opened in 2020 in downtown Washington, DC.
Friedman knew she had hit upon an idea after reading about the National Museum of Mathematics in New York, which was using technology to bring math to life. “That’s when it really dawned on me: a museum approach for words and language hadn’t been tried yet.”
“I’m not a linguist, so I gathered around me really smart, knowledgeable people to help develop the idea,” Friedman said. “I started traveling around the U.S. looking at different museums that use technology. Because I knew that was one of the keys—we needed to use technology to bring words and language to life.”
Friedman said the end result is a space that captures visitors’ attention. The museum includes immersive galleries that explore language in novel and entertaining ways. One gallery contains a 12-foot high-wattage globe where visitors can choose various languages and learn a few culturally specific words and phrases. On the second floor, a quiet space offers audio of poems with the words screened on the walls. Visitors are also invited to solve puzzles, listen to poetry, and paint pictures with words.
Friedman sees the museum as a way to educate people about how words are used around the world.
“I want people to be aware of the words that people use around them and also be aware of the ones that they use themselves,” she said. “Because they have a choice. You can use your words to hurt others, to wound, or you can use them to heal and to create friendship and understanding and empathy. And obviously it’s important to me that you use your words to do the latter.”
Read Full Article from Washington Post Magazine (DC) (01/25/22)
Author: Ottesen, KK
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