Museum Dedicated to Language, Planet Word, Opens in May

A museum dedicated to everything language in Washington D.C. has announced that it is expected to open May 31.

Planet Word-- a museum dedicated to everything language in Washington D.C.-- has announced that it is expected to open May 31 with 10 immersive galleries that will explore language in informative and entertaining ways.

The museum will host a variety of exhibitions designed to inform and delight. In the large Great Hall, the museum will have 31 language ambassadors who will bring together spoken and signed languages from across the globe, including Navajo, Amharic, Zulu, and Iranian Sign Language. Through tongue twisters, folk songs, sports chants, words of affection, and other fun, culture-specific phrases, ambassadors like Kainoa, Mariko, Sebi, and Cesar will introduce you to their languages—and teach you how to speak or sign a few phrases too.

A one-of-a-kind sound sculpture will greet future visitors to Planet Word: a 20-foot weeping willow tree designed by contemporary artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer. Walking under its branches will trigger unique audio from some of its 500 hanging speakers — each of which will contain an archive of recordings in a distinct language. This immersive piece, titled Speaking WIllow, sets the tone for what to expect at Planet Word, where surprising ways to interact with language will await at every turn.

Lozano-Hemmer is known for his highly participatory works, including his current Pulse exhibition at the Hirshhorn Museum. His work combines human and technological elements with virtuosity, and he describes his pieces as existing at “the intersection of architecture and performance art.”

Of Speaking Willow, he says, “this project is designed to create intimate, organic interaction with visitors entering Planet Word. The piece makes tangible the languages spoken by over 99% of the world’s population, in the form of a diverse array of voices.”

On the second floor visitors will be able to immerse themselves in a world of poetry. In “Word Surround,” visitors will discover a contemplative space in an oval room, tucked away from the energy and bustle of the other galleries. As visitors sit and relax, poems will appear on the walls surrounding them, each line of poetry appearing and then fading away as they are read, one by one, allowing visitors to completely immerse themselves in the words and their messages. Planet Word enlisted the help of poet Adrienne Raphel and partnered with the Poetry Foundation for expert guidance.

The museum is slated to include auditorium, classrooms, a restaurant and gift shop. Admission will be free.

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