History of the Museum

The idea of a National Language Museum in the Nation’s Capital began in 1971 among a group of expert linguists, language specialists, and language enthusiasts who were intrigued by the potential of a unique kind of museum. Over decades of feasibility studies, startup pains, and slow but steady incremental growth, The National Museum of Language (NML) opened its doors in May of 2008, sustained by a nearly all-volunteer governing board and roster of docents.  The physical exhibit was closed in September 2014 and a new focus on development of virtual exhibits began. The NML has reached out to and collaborated with numerous national, regional and local organizations and supporters similarly devoted to language education, appreciation and public recognition and support.  These activities include traveling and loan exhibits to various local and regional “high impact” venues and a regularly scheduled speaker series featuring experts on diverse topics in language, culture, and language science.

Moving into the future of the museum, our outreach, education, and curatorial activities will emphasize powerful on-line and on-site technologies, both in the museum and with traveling exhibits to schools, libraries, community centers and other locations, to extend our services into targeted communities, a “mobile museum”.

Upcoming Plans

As of August 2014, the National Museum of Language is closing its physical exhibit temporarily and focusing on its virtual presence. See letter here.

A Vision for the Future–A Vision for Today

The mission of The National Museum of Language is to enhance understanding of all aspects of language in history, contemporary affairs, and the future.

By fostering the study of the nature of language, its development, and its role and importance in society, and by exploring linguistic problems and ways of overcoming them, the Museum will serve as a resource for people in all walks of life, and will contribute to better understanding and communication among individuals and among the peoples of the world.

The National Museum of Language will establish collections of research materials relating to language in a variety of fields and develop programs and exhibits to explore language in society and its essential role in the histories of civilizations and cultures.

Resident and traveling programs will address audiences of all ages and include the linguistic heritage of America and the nature and the role of language throughout the world.

The Museum will promote and conduct research in language and linguistics and will cooperate with other organizations, institutions, and individuals to achieve mutually agreed upon goals.

Passing of Our Founder

The National Museum of Language’s Founder, Dr. Amelia Clara Murdoch, Ph.D., 91, passed away peacefully on Friday, January 16, 2015 at her home in College Park.
Not all of you knew Amelia but I can tell that NML would never have existed without her.  The museum concept was hers all the way back in the 1970s and she dedicated much of her life afterwards to making it a reality.  She never gave up on this dream–or her vision on what the museum should be.  She had to have been especially proud when NML opened its doors for visitors officially in 2008.  For the last few years of course she was no longer active in NML affairs.   This was a time when we were going through a transition period, which resulted in the decision last year to go virtual, move exhibits to other institutions, and close our building in College Park.  We can’t know for certain what Amelia would have thought of all of this but I know that she would have been pleased that we are still continuing with her lifelong work.
Amelia will not be forgotten.  For the last few years, NML has remembered (and honored her) with a Speaker Series named for her.  The Trustees and I would hope there will be other honors for her to follow, especially as our Museum grows, as we all hope it will.
Donations to the museum in honor of Amelia can be made online or mailed to
Greg Nedved
NML Secretary and Trustee