Sunday, April 1, 2012

a National Museum of Language

With all the babble that goes on in Washington in the name of language, perhaps it isn't  surprising that such an institution  should exist here. But as museums go, it is something of a misnomer. Located in three small rooms in an office building at 7100 Baltimore Ave. in College Park,  Md., NML is a part-time volunteer-run place, open Tuesday and Saturday and the first and third Sunday afternoon only. (See Go in the side door and look opposite a dentist's quarters. Admission is free.  There is an indirect connection with the nearby University of Maryland campus (example: the donation of some costume dolls from a faculty member to help represent Spain in a section on Romance languages). Ah, but the aims are high: "to promote a better understanding of language and its role in history, " etc. Come touch a piece of real papyrus (early form of paper); spell words in different languages on a computer; try your hand at Chinese calligraphy. Annual memberships available. ($20 for a student or senior).
We went on a whim, my friend and I, and chanced upon some other whimsical operations along  Rte 1: an Art Deco Unisex Barbershop (in the plainest of plain buildings on that decidedly eclectic highway; a trompe l'oeil Gothic-style architectural mural; the "Taste" restaurant, which we didn't try, opting instead for Plato's diner, advertising "best" crabcake and most "famous" everything else on a menu that incorporates as many cultures as can be found (it seems) in the NML. Leave it to the Greeks, this is the hangout of local politicians and it claims to stay open 24 hours on weekends (for cops AND robbers no doubt). Good homemade soups; five-inch high cheesecake; top-notch service with outsize servings.

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