Jolanta Zabarskaite, Director, Lithuanian Hearth Language Museum, Vilnius, Lithuania
The Lithuanian Hearth – the museum of the Lithuanian language – is the centre of the Lithuanian language for the community, young people and the society at large. The museum was founded in 2006 and it is the only centre of this type in Lithuania. The main aims of the museum of language are to:
• disseminate the latest news in Lithuanian linguistics;
• raise the society’s awareness of language as a key factor for promoting national identity and citizenship;
• promote ideas about language as the main factor of creativity;
• promote multilingualism and multiculturalism.
The museum provides access to documents and other artefacts of history and everyday life of linguists. One of the exhibits is the first Lithuanian book. It was Martynas Mažvydas’ Catechism, Catechismusa Prasty Szadei (Köningsberg, 1547). In 1997, all who graduated that year received copies of the facsimile publication of the book as a graduation gift from the President of the Republic of Lithuania. Here also is a restored linguist’s workplace from the first half of the 20th century, where the Dictionary of Lithuanian was being written.
The main functions of the compilers of the Dictionary of Lithuanian were as follows: they extracted cards from boxes and checked the handwriting against to the sample handwriting in order to verify if the words on the cards were not contrived; for some linguists, the instructions were to write the manuscript of the Dictionary, others edited the manuscript and it was printed.
The museum also provides access to expeditions of dialectology. The Lithuanian Sign Language is important as well. Not many people come to think of Lithuanian as a language with a verbal reception far less important than its other, less familiar channel.
Our museum carries an exciting display of interactive language toys. There are unique exhibits that can help you “touch the language”. Language toys invite you to act as a language archaeologist and excavate the old Lithuanian words or similar words from old and modern languages. One of the toys is called Words as Shadows. These words are called ‘archaic’ and can be found in old writings. In order to show dialectal differences in the names of different things, we suggest to tread cubes with pictures and dialectal words on the map of Lithuanian dialects – this is the Puzzle of Dialects. There is also a house of the origin of words. As you play, you can find out where different words came from.
The museum provides access to language computer games, books, other interactive tools and an interactive archive of Lithuanian dialects. A dialectal karaoke is also available here. It is a fast and enjoyable way to learn that Lithuanians have numerous dialects and subdialects. It is also an opportunity to pronounce some dialect-specific sounds. Moreover, after having answered a couple of questions, you can try singing in one of the dialects.
The museum also has a unique mobile exhibition, which travels and gets a huge attention in Lithuania and abroad. It called „Touch Lithuanian language by hand“. The mobile exhibition already was in Russia, Egypt, Belgium, Austria, and now it will travel to Norway and Luxembourg.
The Lithuanian Hearth is open for all, and all the activities in it are free.
Vilnius, Language Museum