The National Museum of Language, Have You Heard of It?

Lesley Chapman

Lesley Chapman, OFLA Immediate Past President
French Teacher, Sycamore Community Schools

If you are anything like me, you were not aware that there is a museum dedicated to the appreciation of the world’s languages, their beauty, and what makes them unique. The idea for such a museum originated in College Park, MD, in 1971, when Dr. Amelia C. Murdoch helped organize a public language exhibit, sponsored by the National Security Agency (NSA). Dr. Murdoch’s dream was to eventually create a stand-alone museum dedicated to languages. By 1997, this idea grew into the National Museum of Language (NML), and a brick-and-mortar museum took shape in 2008. The NML went on to host exhibits celebrating language diversity, such as “Writing Language: Passing it On” and “ Emerging American Language in 1812.” 

The programming, presentations, and exhibits in the physical museum aligned with three themes: 1) Universal Aspects of Language 2) Language in Society, and 3) Languages of the World. Each exhibit included displays, activities, translations, games. Children and school groups were frequent visitors to the museum. Unfortunately, the decision to close the physical museum was made in 2013, and the museum moved online, making it among the first-ever virtual museums. 

The NML website includes three important sections: interviews and speeches by leading linguists; “language of the month”; and “teacher’s corner”. Of particular interest to OFLA members might be their collection of multilingual digital stories in a number of different world languages. They also host online social events for members throughout the country. In order to link with language educators, the NML has recruited liaisons from each state who volunteer their time to spread the word throughout the language community. In Ohio, I have taken on this role together with our esteemed colleague Ms. Terri Marlow.

Terri and I will be sure to let OFLA know about the upcoming events at the NML, and we invite you to peruse their website for further information about their offerings. Additionally, if you are so inclined, the NML would be grateful for any donation you could give to contribute to their cause. Let’s do all we can to keep the spark of language learning alive in the USA!

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