Museum Visionary Nina Simon inspires as she discusses relevance and science centres at NEXT the 2017 Canadian Association of Science Centres Annual Conference

TORONTO, May 5, 2017 /CNW/ - Today, opening keynote Nina Simon, Executive Director of the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History (MAH) discussed the relevancy of science centres and museums in the 21st century. "Relevance is an exercise in empathy," said Simon in reference to allowing the interests of "outsiders" to help museums and science centres grow new audiences. Simon inspired more than 150 delegates at NEXT, the 2017 Canadian Association of Science Centres annual conference hosted by the Ontario Science Centre.

Simon is described as a "museum visionary" by Smithsonian Magazine for her community-based approach to design at the MAH. "Relevance isn't about what's trending. It's about unlocking meaning in people's hearts," said Simon. She stated that most museums often look at their core audiences, their "insiders," and simply attempt to enlarge that circle. Unfortunately what is relevant to this core audience may not be relevant to new audiences, "the outsiders." She believes instead of enlarging the insider circle to capture outsiders, museums should be creating new outsider circles that intersect with their insider circle.

"It was fascinating to hear how she flipped the traditional model of museums – build it and they will come – to instead focus on who is in the community, learn their interests and then develop programming for them," said Dr. Maurice Bitran, CEO and Chief Science Officer of the Ontario Science Centre. 

Simon suggested the first thing museum directors should do is read their local census. When she did it, that research informed her that Santa Cruz had a large Latinx community that was underserved. She leveraged this information to create new programming and more importantly draw in new audiences with what was previously an "outsider" community for MAH. This helped to change MAH's attendance from 17,000 to 55,000 annually, and even more impressive MAH transformed from a struggling organization with $16,000 in the bank to a thriving one with $1.6 million.

Next: The 2017 Canadian Association of Science Centres Annual Conference was held at the Ontario Science Centre from May 4-6, 2017. For more information, visit:

SOURCE Ontario Science Centre

For further information: Media Contacts: Anna Relyea, Director, Strategic Communications, 416-696-3273 | c: 416-668-1967,; Jefferson Darrell, Media Relations Officer, 416-696-3154,; Social Media Hashtag: #CASC2017


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