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The Art of Relevance

4.10  ·  Rating details ·  450 ratings  ·  69 reviews
What do the London Science Museum, California Shakespeare Theater, and ShaNaNa have in common? They are all fighting for relevance in an often indifferent world. The Art of Relevance is your guide to mattering more to more people. You'll find inspiring examples, rags-to-relevance case studies, research-based frameworks, and practical advice on how your work can be more vit ...more
Paperback, 196 pages
Published June 14th 2016 by Museum 2.0
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Average rating 4.10  · 
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Aug 03, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: boekenkast, academic
I really love the way that Nina Simon writes - this book is such an easy and fun read, which makes it fantastic because now everyone in museumland can read this and DO this.. I wish. I so deeply agree with all of The Art of Relevance, but it makes me so sad that so much of this is not happening in museums and I am too small a person to make it happen. Oh, if only I were a director.. ;)

Side-note: I really missed the academic underpinnings in this book. Although now it really was an easy read, a l
Jasper Visser
Jun 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
"Communities are people. They are not abstractions. They are not rhetoric. They are human beings."

Nina Simon has again written a smart, anecdote-filled, activist and (I have to say) relevant book for all professionals in the arts, culture and heritage who want to invite more people into their world, be more welcoming, and change the world for the better. The book is a pleasure to read. Short and snappy, its message is crystal clear, and you can get through it in one proper sit.

I'm aware the mess
A must-read for any institution attempting to reach marginalized populations.
Mar 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I absolutely devoured this book! It is such a breath of fresh air! Full of meaningful insights, quirky witticisms, and relevant case studies, this book shows the importance of making your work relevant to your community, the current zeitgeist, and potential demographics of people!
Elizabeth Schlatter
I feel guilty not giving this book 5 stars because Simon has enabled anyone to read it for FREE, which is wonderfully generous. It's a nice companion to Simon's "Participatory Museum," which focuses on interactive strategies for all sorts of museum exhibitions, programs, collections, PR, etc., you name it. This book is more focused on how to find out what sorts of communities (plural by all definitions) could find resonance with your institution, and how to go about finding those communities, le ...more
Katherine McCauley
Some good points, some less good points, but big ups for being so readable.
Liz Norell
Sep 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
This isn't the kind of book I normally read, and its utility to my own work and way of being is unclear. But I picked it up -- and stuck with it -- after a recommendation by a graphic design colleague I admire and trust greatly. The key premise Nina Simon explores here is the importance of finding your mission / purpose, identifying your target communities / audience, then balancing your desire to evangelize about your unique offerings with listening to the needs of your community around your mi ...more
Cheryl Turoczy Hart
Sep 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I signed up for a webinar on relevance. It didn't seem totally "relevant" to what I do--aimed at museums and other more arty institutions--but all organizations providing programs and services have something in common so I signed up. Nina Simon's TED talk was suggested as an introduction. Having a little time on my hands--it is the pandemic after all--I watched the TED talk...and I was hooked. The webinar, which was recorded but hasn't been posted yet, just sunk the hook a little deeper and her ...more
Elizabeth Bostelman
Oct 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Museum/non-profit peeps, read this book! It helped me to see relevance not as a "thing" to be chased and change but something that is always there you just need to give the public a key to what is cool about your institution! Read it!!! ...more
Sian Lile-Pastore
May 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
I liked this - a good one for musuem workers. Easy to read, accessible with lots of good stories and examples. Do think it was a little bit surfacy and the whole key/room analogy went a bit far. Also thought it probably could have done with some references. But really liked It and it has lots of valuable insights.
Bob Garrett
Apr 25, 2017 rated it it was ok
Museum professional Nina Simon is big on community engagement for museums.  She loves to talk about museums "building rooms" and "building doors" and giving community people "keys" to the magnificent doors to these magnificent rooms.

"The more someone uses a key, the more it becomes a part of them.  The room changes them, and they change the room."  So sayeth Ms. Simon.

If this sounds very "hippie dippie," then, well, that's because it is.  It's not nonsense, mind you, and this book does provide s
Nov 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
The Art of Relevance made some interesting (and sometimes profound) points that encouraged me to turn my gaze inward and examine where I currently stand and - more importantly - where I'm willing to go, but it also felt uncomfortably at points like it was preaching to the choir. I will say that Simon's writing style is infinitely accessible to the seasoned museum professional and wider community members alike. ...more
Jonathan Frederick Walz
Apr 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Inspiring. Highly recommended.
Eve Schaub
Mar 25, 2021 rated it really liked it
Nina Simon lives up to her billing as a museum visionary. I was utterly persuaded by her recurring metaphor of"keys and doors" to institutions that admit some communities but appear closed or invisible to others. The overarching question of The Art of Relevance is this: how does an institution become more important to more people?

Her writing style is a little perfunctory— idea- example. Idea- example— but hits every key point: what is the difference between being relevant and being fashionable?
Heather Hope
Sep 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
I am a fan of Simon's work. While she writes mostly about museums, her work and thoughts apply equally across the arts and across ther nonprofit sector. This book is very conversational, filled with stories and imagery and ideas, but it's also very engrossing and grabbed me from the beginning. I recommend it to anyone who is thinking about inclusion and community and the dreaded it-word "relevance."

This book doesn't have the academic approach you might be looking for - there's no statistical ana
Sep 17, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: no-ficción
This book is addressed to museum professionals mostly. It discusses how organizations can matter to their targeted communities. It defines relevance and some interesting concepts (insiders-outsiders) and illustrates ideas with metaphors (key, door, etc.). The most interesting chapter for me was focused on how program activities that are relevant; I liked the shift from collections and content to program and format. It is very clear, easy to read, and the chapters are very short, and the author u ...more
Aug 24, 2017 rated it liked it
Not a book I would normally pick up, but it left an impact. In a nutshell the message is: does your work have relevance? Using case studies nationally and through her own work at the MAH Simon dives into what it means for an organization to be relevant to the community it serves. I definitely thought about this connects to the world of education, and understood how this impacted the work I did in the classroom. A good read for someone who wants to understand how to connect with their community, ...more
Sep 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
What a great book! Very accessible- Simon uses short chapters and plenty of examples to help express the idea of relevance. How to provide new keys/doorways to your institution, building trust and community, "buying in", etc. I found this incredibly useful and thought provoking in my own work. It now makes me look not just at my programs, but at my building itself, in a new light. I can see myself referring back to this book many times in my future. Highly recommended, particularly for anyone wo ...more
Jun 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
Excellent, thought-provoking, and easy to digest. Quite different from the Participatory Museum which has taken me some time to get through. Many chapters are brief and, I believe, former blog posts. Some great examples from the museum field and other areas (such as her Dad who is in the band ShaNaNa, how awesome is that??) to illustrate her points. One criticism, I do wish the key/door/room theme was not so prevalent because it became hackneyed very quickly.
Heather G
Jul 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Simon's message and approach resonate beyond museum applications. This book is highly relevant (sorry!) to broader cultural studies fields -- such as my own: cultural sustainability. It's so important to engage the communities we work with as partners...

Like other reviewers here, I would have appreciated more in terms of theory or citations for publications that informed Simon's thinking. That said, the book is highly accessible and lays important groundwork that will inspire.
Brittney DeVeau
Jan 03, 2020 rated it liked it
This is an interesting read about how to improve museums in regards to their cultural significance, and Nina Simon is a great speaker and authority on what these changes look like. I enjoyed her use of non-museum examples, though I feel like those working front-line staff at museums will just silently nod in agreement about how much has to change.

The biggest thing about texts like these is that the people who need to read them don’t, and the people who do read them already agree.
Amber Nagy
May 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed this book as much as I did. Only started reading it for a book club at work, and enjoyed the short vignettes on relevance in the public sector. Each section is pretty short and includes an example of an actual museum or program, so the book flows really well. Definitely recommend.
Sep 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
I heard the author speak at our state library conference and I'm finally reading the book. This is something I can dip into again and again as I think about what step to take next at the library. Filled with interesting examples and thought provoking questions I can't wait to discuss this with someone! I especially appreciated her analogy of doors and keys. ...more
Sep 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
I saw Nina Simon speak at the ILA 2016 Conference in Rosemont. She was a fantastic speaker and energizing in how libraries can move into space for the people, rather than we own the space and the people just use it. Her book was interesting and a recap of her ideas she talked about, but a little too case specific.
Jannie Kitchen
Jan 24, 2021 rated it really liked it
This book is revolutionary in it’s simplicity. Almost every insight in this book is so fundamental to community engagement that when reading it, all of the points feel obvious. I found myself saying “of course” throughout. But the genius of this book is naming those truths, and stating them in an easy to understand, easy to *take action* on way. If I was still working in the arts/community engagement I would buy this book and read it many times. I’ll be honest, though, it made me feel very relie ...more
Nicole SaBell-Stoltz
Feb 28, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This book was one of the options we could read for a class I am taking. In truth, I picked it because it was the shortest book on the list and the topic was intriguing. I was pleasantly surprised by it and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Nina Simon does a great job at getting her point across and provides many inspiring examples on how to truly be relevant to the community in which you serve.
Hannah Hethmon
Sep 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This isn't just for museum people. Simon distills what it takes to be relevant down to its core, and leaves you with something that can be applied to any endeavor. If you are working in the public interest, this is a must-read. ...more
Josiah Philip
Jun 05, 2020 marked it as to-read
I saw a community (people) falling because they lake what art and it's relevance is. I give plus to those whom they are sleepless to see that art give life to communities. As water covered the sea so as art covered our lives. ...more
Colleen Frakes
Jun 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
A quick and engaging read with a lot of good information relevant to libraries, museums and public institutions.
Leah Rachel
Jul 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Opening doors to relevance

I loved the use of the door metaphor to explain how institutions can work to welcome diverse groups of people and help them take ownership of th
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