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Word Up! D.C. Will Get a Museum of Linguistics

Can “Planet Word”—an interactive museum of language—bring new life to a long-vacant historic D.C. building?
Preservation restrictions have made reusing the historic Franklin School a challenge. Will "Planet Word" be the perfect fit?
Preservation restrictions have made reusing the historic Franklin School a challenge. Will "Planet Word" be the perfect fit? Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

The Franklin School in downtown Washington, D.C., has sat vacant since 2008, but the city abandoned the building decades earlier. Designed by Adolf Cluss, the architect who built the Smithsonian Institution’s Castle and its Arts and Industries Building, the revival-style gem survived many efforts to demolish it. More recently, it’s been the focus of everything from mayoral redevelopment schemes to an Occupy demonstration in 2011.

Now another group will take a stab at the historic Franklin School. On Wednesday, the city announced plans to turn the building into a museum of linguistics. Led by philanthropist Ann B. Friedman (wife of New York Times columnist Tom Friedman), “Planet Word” will be an interactive center dedicated to language arts, in the vein of the National Museum of Mathematics in New York, according to the city. (Disclosure: Katherine Brittain Bradley, who sits on the board of Planet Word, is married to David Bradley, the owner of the Atlantic Media company.)