Language museums of the world

Language museums of the world

There are at least 80 museums of language or written culture in 31 countries all over the world. Two out of three are located in Europe, and most of the museums were opened after 1990, says general director Ottar Grepstad at the Centre for Norwegian Language and Literature in Western Norway.

On Monday 19 March he published the e-book Language museums of the world which presents all the museums together with information about language websites, language days, festivals and monuments. It is available free of charge at www.aasentunet.no. 

A change of thinking about language

Germany alone has 11 museums. Other countries with at least three language museums are China, England, France, Italy, Slovakia, Spain, and USA.

– The way of thinking about language has changed throughout the world the last decades, says Grepstad, and more than half of the museums were opened after 1990. The oldest language museum dates from 1898, and the oldest museum on written culture from 1884. Only six of the museums were established before World War I.

In the book Grepstad divides the museums into four groups. There are 6 museums of language and languages of the world, 33 museums of a single language or group of languages, 15 museums of writing and written culture, 11 museums in memory of persons and 15 digital museums.

The book includes ideas, plans and initiatives for at least 18 more language museums, some of them even under construction. It also presents 39 websites about language systems, language in use and language rights, 35 monuments, 23 festivals and 69 days and weeks for memory or celebration of languages. 

Hunting for ten years

Grepstad’s hunt for language museums started in 2008. A preliminary catalogue in 2009 included 22 museums. By February 2015, 58 language museums were presented in a first edition called A world of languages and written culture. Several hundred websites have been visited to find museums and collect relevant information, museums and colleagues all over the world have contributed with information, and all the diplomatic stations in Norway have been asked for help.

By an initiative from Centre for Norwegian Language and Literature, an International network of language museums was established in 2016. Today 14 museums have joined he network.
– This book will stimulate more museums to enter the network, says Ottar Grepstad.