ninaksimon

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OLD PLAYS, NEW FORMS, NEW AUDIENCES When Michelle Hensley started her theater company, she knew she wanted to do something different. Not with the content—she loved ancient Greek tragedies, Shakespeare, and modern classics—but with the audience. She didn’t want to perform solely for wealthy white people. She wanted to make theater for everyone—especially people who

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CONTENT VERSUS FORM Some institutions get caught up in chasing trends, arguing: “if people on the street are talking about X, we should be talking about X too.” No. If people on the street are talking about X, the organization should ask: is X something that matters to us, too? Does X belong in our

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PROACTIVE RELEVANCE I worked at the Spy Museum in the mid-2000s, in an era of hot news stories about espionage. Bob Hanssen was convicted for selling secrets to the USSR. Valerie Plame’s cover was blown. There were weekly revelations about national and international security. Every time one of these stories hit, a reporter would call

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THE UGLIEST PAINTING ON THE BLOCK There’s a painting in my museum that many visitors hate. It’s a black, shiny rectangular slab by John McCracken. McCracken was a minimalist artist famous for monolithic planks covered in monochromatic auto paint. The slabs are usually exhibited leaning up against the wall. If you were making a movie

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YOU CAN MAKE BORING THINGS RELEVANT When I was in my 20s, I got a professional haircut (a rarity for me). While clipping my locks, the stylist remarked, “you’re so lucky. Curly hair is really ‘in’ right now.” Her words struck me as odd. My hair has been curly from day one. It won’t ever

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RELEVANCE IS A MOVING TARGET FOR INSTITUTIONS Relevance is a moving target. Your content can be relevant to different people at different times for different reasons—or not. Even at institutions that have undergone radical reinvention, the change doesn’t stop. As Will Rogers said, “Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if

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A HUNT FOR RELEVANCE In 2011, the historic jet engines in the Derby Silk Mill went silent. The industrial museum, on the site of one of the first factories in the world, closed its doors. The museum had started its life as Lombe’s Mill, the first fully-mechanized factory in Northern England. Millworkers twisted silk into

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STEADY IN THE STORM When the fires hit the Okanogan Valley in the summer of 2015, everyone was affected. The forest was decimated. Residents lost their farms. Firefighters swarmed in from across the West, setting up tent cities in parking lots to fight the blaze. Pat Verbeck’s church jumped into action. She and her fellow

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BUILDING A BIGGER ROOM When I first came to the MAH, family experiences lived in one room: Family Art Day. Family Art Day was a monthly Saturday workshop. For a couple of hours, an artist would lead a project for a group of families. About twenty kids and adults would have a great time together

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BUILD A DOOR OR CHANGE THE ROOM? Once you understand your community of interest, you have a choice. You can build relevance by constructing new doors. Or you can change the programming within the room itself. Or both. How can you decide when to build new doors, when to change the room, and when to