Collaborative Research: Advancing language research and outreach in a language museum

September 1st, 2021 - February 28th, 2025 | PROJECT

This award is funded with support from NSF's program for Advancing Informal STEM Education.

This project develops a partnership between language researchers and Planet Word, a new museum devoted to language in Washington D.C., to engage museum visitors in scientific research and outreach. Interested museum visitors from all ages and backgrounds are invited to participate in behavioral research studies on a range of language-related topics. This "living language laboratory" of interactive studies includes accompanying educational demonstrations. These activities will lead to the development of infrastructure and best practices that will allow future language researchers to engage with the public at Planet Word and other similar sites.

The project enhances scientific understanding by engaging visitors in activities that expose them to active science about language as a part of their visit to the museum. For example, the research examines topics from understanding what makes certain American Sign Language signs more learnable, to why it is easier to understand people we know rather than strangers, to whether we think differently when we are reading a text message compared to reading more formal writing. In doing so, the project raises the profile of linguistics among the general public and promotes scientifically informed attitudes about language. The project also provides key opportunities to disseminate research findings of interest to the public and to promote greater interest in STEM topics among museum visitors, as well as student trainees and museum staff. The project creates educational and research opportunities for students, who will be trained in a hands-on course, and will gain first-hand experience with research and outreach in a museum setting. Through the collaborative partnership of researchers from University of Maryland, Howard University, and Gallaudet University, the project broadens participation of underrepresented minority students in the language sciences, seeking to diversify the pipeline of scholars continuing in careers in the language sciences and related STEM fields.

Project Website(s)

(no project website provided)

Project Products

2021 Poster - Language science research and engagement at a language museum
2023 AISL Awardee Mini-Poster: 2116959, 2116811, 2116932​

Team Members

Charlotte Vaughn, Principal Investigator, University of Maryland, College Park
Yi Ting Huang, Co-Principal Investigator
Deanna Gagne, Principal Investigator
Patrick Plummer, Principal Investigator, Howard University


Funding Source: NSF
Funding Program: Build and Broaden, AISL, Linguistics
Award Number: 2116959
Funding Amount: $439,291.90

Funding Source: NSF
Funding Program: Build and Broaden, Linguistics
Award Number: 2116811

Funding Source: NSF
Funding Program: Build and Broaden, Linguistics
Award Number: 2116932


Audience: General Public | Museum | ISE Professionals | Undergraduate | Graduate Students
Discipline: Social science and psychology
Resource Type: Project Descriptions | Projects
Environment Type: Exhibitions | Museum and Science Center Exhibits | Museum and Science Center Programs | Public Programs

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This material is supported by National Science Foundation award DRL-2229061, with previous support under DRL-1612739, DRL-1842633, DRL-1212803, and DRL-0638981. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations contained within are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of NSF.

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