Kelly Magyarics Lonely Planet Writer
Words matter. That’s the takeaway from a new interactive museum opening in Washington, D.C. this spring.
Planet Word is scheduled to open 31 May 2020, a 51,000-square-foot space housed in the Franklin School designed to educate us about language arts through engaging exhibits about the spoken, sung and written word.
The location is auspicious for two reasons: not only is the Franklin School the flagship of the first public schools opening in Washington, D.C. offering free universal education to boys and girls, but its rooftop also happens to be the spot where Alexander Graham Bell made his first wireless transmission from his photophone, an invention that used a beam of light to transmit sound.
“We’ve got surprises galore waiting for visitors in the heart of Washington, D.C.,” says founder and CEO Ann Friedman. “Through these one-of-a-kind experiences, visitors to Planet Word will thrill to the fun and beauty and power of words all around them.”
Dubbed the world’s first voice-activated museum, Planet Word will engage visitors through 11 immersive galleries. In one, guests can “paint” a scene with words using small brushes, which will change the virtual landscape and scene. In another, a 22-foot high Word Wall comprising more than 1000 three-dimensional words will light up and respond to voice, telling stories about how these words made their way into the English lexicon. And a huge chandelier/globe with 5000 LED lights will challenge visitors with word games incorporating language from dozens of locale and cultures – including two kinds of sign language. Would-be performers can take a shot at karaoke, while those who want to hone their public speaking skills can recite iconic speeches throughout history, including when JFK challenged Americans to “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country” and Martin Luther King, Jr. orated the inspirational “I Have a Dream” call for a post-racism America.
In addition to the exhibit galleries, Planet Word will feature a word play puzzle room, a gift shop, an auditorium and classrooms, and will host ongoing live programming like “Wordshops,” performances and events, author readings and community conversations.
After you check out the museum you can head for a bite at the onsite restaurant. On the menu? Alphabet soup and the Gutenburger, an ode to the first person in Europe to print using movable type. Naturally.
Planet Word opens 31 May, 2020. Check out their website or this video for a sneak peek.