It’s late at night, and you’re looking for something to watch on TV. Do you choose the movie you’ve seen before or a new one you know nothing about? For most people, each of these is appealing for different reasons. Novelty is exciting, but risky. Familiarity is comforting, but redundant. We all want some of
Meaning, Effort, Bacon In pop culture-land, relevance is all about now. Who’s hot. What’s trending. But if you’re like me, that definition is deeply unsatisfying. And the experts are on our side. Remember Deirdre Wilson & Dan Sperber–the cognitive scientists who described relevance as something that “yields positive cognitive effect”? They are leading theorists in
RELEVANCE IS A MOVING TARGET FOR CONTENT Most of us aren’t steering whole institutions and mission statements. We’re working on a smaller scale, with specific content or programs. But the changing tides of relevance that affect institutions affect content too—sometimes even more acutely. While an institution can pivot, presenting different content for different times, the
PREFACE BY JON MOSCONE Let’s face it: we have a problem. It’s not that we don’t see the numbers declining, or the funding priorities shifting, or the world passing us by. The problem is: what do we do? This problem is a question of relevance, and it is a question that drives me in every
INTRODUCTION: UNLOCKING RELEVANCE When the Japanese-American family walked into the tiny museum at Camp Amache in 2010, graduate student Kellen Hinrichsen was there to greet them. Kellen welcomed the group: an older man, his daughter, and grandchildren. The grandfather was born at Camp Amache, one of many children born in captivity in the World War
WHOSE ROOM IS THIS? I was a new parent, having lunch with a lesbian activist, when she told me the best-kept secret of hipster parenting in Santa Cruz: the Elks Lodge. I knew the Elks Lodge as the weird building on the hill with an overabundance of wood paneling. The Elks, or the Benevolent and
A WALK ON THE BEACH On the morning of July 19, 2015, I pedaled my bike downhill towards certain failure. It was a Sunday, 7:30am and chilly. I was headed to the beach. My museum—the MAH—was holding a 130th anniversary party for the first surfers in the Americas. On July 19, 1885, three teenage Hawaiian
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