Washington DC

Planet World: Washington D.C.’s New Language Museum Opening In May

“Planet World” is a new museum opening in downtown Washington D.C. next year. Ann Friedman, the founder and primary investor in the museum, describes it as an “interactive museum that will bring language to life,” according to the Washington Post. The museum is set to make its debut on May 31st at its downtown location that is currently known as the historic Franklin School. It will include 10 immersive galleries that will allow visitors to learn about the world’s many diverse cultures and languages in engaging and entertaining ways. 

“Our country was founded on the written word, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights. After you’ve visited all those word-engraved historic sites, you might like to visit a museum that shows you the broader context, not just the power of words, but the beauty and fun, too. A strong democracy needs a literate population. We know readers are active in their communities. They vote. So we need to find additional ways to engage people with words, with reading, with books. Museums can try anything; they’re not hemmed in by time or curriculum requirements. So, if joke-telling or speechmaking or rapping is the key to hooking someone on reading, they can give that a try,” Friedman told The Post

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The Post also reported that one of the museum’s galleries will include a twelve foot tall “high-wattage globe” where visitors will be able to select various locations from anywhere in the world and learn about the languages of those places, as well as words and phrases that are specific to that one culture. Other exhibits include a room filled with hundreds of speakers that are hooked up to play parts of famous poems and speeches that made major political/cultural impacts around the world. A quiet room explicitly offering audio of poems in all languages, with translations projected onto the walls is another exhibit being advertised, as well as many other interactive spaces that will give guests the opportunity to solve challenging word puzzles, paint word art, as well as a space where visitors will be able to attempt to deliver famous speeches in a variety of languages (The Post). One of Friedmans past careers was a first grade teacher, so she ensured that the museum had plenty of space for learning; Planet World will also include an auditorium and multiple classrooms. Admission will be completely free. 

Friedman is the daughter of late shopping mall entrepreneur billionaire Matthew Bucksaum, which is how the massive project is getting done in the first place. According to The Post, Friendman will be using her own money to completely restore the Franklin School and convert it into the Planet World Museum. The Franklin school is a National Historic landmark that originally opened in 1869 as one of downtown D.C.’s districts first public schools. The entire renovation will cost $25 million when all is said and done. 

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“I’m happy this building is going to live again. It’s going to attract people, whether they are interested in words and language or not, because they haven’t been able to get inside for a decade. People are going to have so much fun and be amazed by the technology and the ways we have been able to bring language to life,” said Friedman.

In the past, Friedman worked on nonprofit charity boards, including the renown National Symphony Orchestra, but noted that she didn’t have any museum experience, until now. Friedman wanted to be as hands on with this project as possible, after all she is paying for it, so back in 2013 she began attending multiple museum conferences, and met with leaders of different institutions that were popular in America. Through this she was able to network among D.C.’s vast community of experts on world history, language, and the inner workings of running a museum, and create a stellar board for Planet World. The Planet World Museum Board includes investment bankers, lawyers, educators of all levels, writers, and museum professionals, some of which have experience working at the Smithsonian, (The Post). 

The goal was to bring all of these individuals together and create a space that they all felt passionately about. This project was meant to be more than just work, and instead is about creation and education. Planet World will be opening May 31st in downtown D.C.