Note: This post is part of my “Museums Project“, a collection of 200+ high-concept ideas for museums.
I find accents fascinating. But other than this student project I found, I have never seen a museum for them. There are 6500 languages in the world and there is a National Museum of Languages (which is now virtual-only), but I am looking specifically for accents. There’s this fascinating collection of accents and dialects on the British Library’s site, but nothing in-person. Listening to accents at home one at a time on a website is just not the same as being in a room filled with accents and people.
A big part of the museum should be a “guess the accent” area which helps you learn the different accents. There’s background on the accent, video and audio from people who speak with the accent, and explanations of how this accent relates to other accents, both aurally and geographically.
Are the recordings all in english like the British Library’s VoiceBank? Or a mix of languages? If a mix, is it only people speaking in their native language or are there combinations of language and accent? For example, what does it sound like when a native German speaks french? Or a native chinese speaker reads spanish? Obviously some people will be better at replicating their adopted language’s accent than others.
One note is that since accent and race are often intertwined the museum would have to take care to represent everyone in a non-caricature, sensitive, and compassionate way. I think if it was done well it could deepen understanding, be a display of shared humanity and be feel connective and meaningful. What each voice is saying when you hear it could facilitate that.
Here’s a two related museums that I thought were noteworthy: This one celebrates words. This one is for languages.