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Planet Word is on the move! The total lunar eclipse that wowed many of us on the East coast last week was nothing compared to the progress we’ve set in motion over the past few months.

the franklin school

Work continues apace to restore and rehabilitate the magnificent spaces of the Franklin School. Right now, the ornate cast-iron handrails, marble-tiled stairways and landings, and other beautiful, historic features of the building are being cleaned and restored. The building contractor, Whiting-Turner, is also preparing to stabilize and replicate the peeling frescoes in the Great Hall and recreate a classroom as it existed in 1869, when the school opened. To top it all off, we’re creating a new, accessible entrance off of K Street and opening a new fourth floor — with access to the roof terrace where Alexander Graham Bell sent the first photophone message in 1880.

The Great Hall awaits rehabilitation.

The Great Hall awaits rehabilitation.

building the exhibits

Our newly hired Director of Technology and Operations, Jeff Williams, is planning for the wiring and technology that we’ll need to make Planet Word the first-ever voice-activated museum, in conjunction with contractor Whiting Turner and architectural firm Beyer Blinder Belle. A generous in-kind gift from AT&T is making that technology affordable and top-of-the-line.

Simultaneously, we’ve been completing design work on the 10 gallery experiences that will animate the museum. In fact, we are about to begin fabricating the physical elements of the exhibits — everything from the wood shelves that will line our magical library to the 1200-word, 22-foot-high, three-dimensional word wall in our “Where Do Words Come From?” gallery.

We have hired a whole team of experts to find and license the content that will fill the galleries — the great poems, songs, jokes, speeches, and literature that will bring words to life in fun, surprising, and totally unique ways. Just this week, in fact, we hired speakers of some 30 different languages to be ambassadors for their native tongues in our “Spoken World” gallery. They will introduce visitors to some of the most interesting characteristics about their language and will encourage visitors to try saying a few words. From Navajo to Maori to Russian, Planet Word will take you on a linguistic tour of the globe.

Talk to Planet Word’s massive word wall in “Where Do Words Come From?” to learn about the origins of English.

Talk to Planet Word’s massive word wall in “Where Do Words Come From?” to learn about the origins of English.

Enter “The Spoken World” and encounter dozens of the world’s languages.

Enter “The Spoken World” and encounter dozens of the world’s languages.

and more fun on the way

And if you happen to pass by the Franklin School after February 6, you’ll see two new, colorful banners lining our construction fence. Look closely, and you’ll see that each is covered in word- and language-related puzzles! Can you solve them all? If you can’t see them in person, we’ll also be posting the puzzles on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram — give us your answers with #PlanetWord, and share to challenge your friends! We’re building a community of word-loving supporters for Planet Word, and we’re so glad you’re already part of it.

—Ann Friedman, founder, Planet Word