Universiteit Leiden

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New language museum for Leiden

Leiden is to have a new language museum in 2015, a public institute focusing on language in all its facets and where science and social developments come together for a broad public. It won't be in a building, but at different places in the city. Dynamic, contemporary, flexible and affordable. The details of the plan will be presented on 29 September.

At the heart of the community

Everyone uses language and has an opinion on language. About tone and style, spelling and grammar, the spoken and written word. Language is a dynamic and multi-faceted subject that deserves a place of its own. But the era of enormous museum projects is long gone; small-scale and durability are becoming ever more important, including in the cultural sector. And not only that, the right place for language is at the heart of society. Hence the choice in favour of the public space: the city as the stage for the museum.  

Broadening the interest in language

The aim of the language museum is to broaden people's interest in language and the role it plays in societies and cultures. Humanities and the Leiden research theme 'Language Diversity in the World' will become more visible. The new museum will be launched as part of the university's 440th anniversary in 2015, and ties in with existing institutes and initiatives such as LeidenGlobal, in which Leiden museums participate, and Leiden Kennisstad. The language museum will also play a role in the continuing professional development of lecturers.  Finally, the museum will further promote and deepen the good collaboration between city and university, and will strengthen Leiden's profile as an international meeting place for talent, knowledge and innovation.


Three elements

The language museum will have three main elements:

  1. An annual language festival with a broad range of lectures, workgroups, debates, children's programmes, language games and cultural activities.

  2. The museum part: small, permanent or semi-permanent exhibitions and installations at different public venues in Leiden.

  3. A digital component consisting of an app for language in the public space and a virtual community that links the festival and exhibitions with the city and university.

The three elements of the language museum will have a different theme each year.  The theme for 2015 is: What are you saying?


Several different parties have been thinking for some time about a language museum in the Netherlands. In 2013 the university made a start on the project, with the Leiden University Centre for Linguistics (LUCL), the Leiden University Institute for Area Studies (LIAS) and the Leiden University Graduate School of Teaching (ICLON) getting together to formulate a plan. Their plan will be presented on 29 September. Erik Schilp, former museum director and Leiden alumnus is developing the concept together with several Leiden academics. The plan has the backing of the Faculty Board of Humanities and the Executive Board. The municipality of Leiden is also enthusiastic and positive about the plan.

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