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State Historic Preservation Office Recognizes Preservation Efforts across the State with Community Initiative Awards


Harrisburg, PA - The Pennsylvania State Historic Preservation Office (PA SHPO) has announced its Community Initiative Awards for 2020. Recipients include an Instagrammer/blogger, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving amazing artwork, and a Main Street organization.

The three recipients for 2020 have demonstrated the power of digital engagement and the importance of 21st-century tools and technology to advocate, promote and preserve Pennsylvania’s older and historic places, which has been especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Community Initiative Awards recognize the hard work and dedication of outstanding organizations, municipalities, agencies and individuals whose work embodies the theme of Pennsylvania’s statewide historic preservation plan. The plan provides a framework of activities and goals that will help Pennsylvanians better understand historic preservation and its benefits, appreciate their shared histories as told through historic places, and balance history and economic development to manage change within their communities.

There is no formal application for the Community Initiative Awards. PA SHPO, a bureau within the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission, selects candidates for consideration in the following ways:

  • monitoring social media coverage and traditional press reporting
  • reporting on active projects that utilize federal or state programs
  • tracking use of the #PreservationHappensHere hashtag
  • reviewing success stories submitted to PA SHPO

This year’s winners are:

Erin Phillips, Old Erie on Foot Instagram and Blog

In July 2018 Erie resident Erin Phillips started her Old Erie on Foot Instagram account with a hashtag and a call to action for fellow history and Erie enthusiasts to discover and explore the area’s amazing older and historic places. She believes that “every old building has a story that needs to be told.”

More than 440 posts and 3,200 followers later, Old Erie on Foot is a positive social media presence that highlights some of the distinctive old places, homes and buildings in Erie.

Erin uses her platforms to promote historic preservation, local history, community engagement, and Erie County’s unique communities through engaging photographs and personal insight.

Society to Preserve the Millvale Murals of Maxo Vanka

The Society to Preserve the Millvale Murals of Maxo Vanka (SPMMMV) was founded in 1991 to raise awareness and educate the public about the 25 mid-20th-century murals painted by Croatian artist Maxo Vanka in the St. Nicholas Church, the country’s first Croatian Catholic parish, in Millvale, Allegheny County.

SPMMMV’s “behind-the-scenes” social media posts about the ongoing mural conservation gave followers a sneak peek beneath the layers of dirt accruing for more than 80 years and has helped build excitement and support for the next phase of work.

The “Table Talk” events introduced St. Nicholas and its amazing murals to many people, giving SPMMMV an opportunity to share news about the Vanka collection, new discoveries about the history of St. Nicholas found through PA SHPO’s work on the Historic Structure Report, and support the call for social justice in the country and their community.

Thirty years later, SPMMMV has proved that social media and virtual events can be powerful tools for building awareness and support — in the 21st century and particularly during a global pandemic — in an engaging and cost-effective way.

Mainstreet Waynesboro, Inc.

Mainstreet Waynesboro, Inc. of Franklin County hosted a successful virtual “Historic Designation Celebration” in May 2020. The group had originally prepared for an in-person event to celebrate the recent listing of the Waynesboro Historic District in the National Register of Historic Places.

When COVID-19 precautions meant they were unable to host a large crowd, they quickly changed to a Facebook Live event showcasing the Waynesboro community and its many older and historic places.

Although a large crowd may have joined Mainstreet Waynesboro to celebrate the National Register listing and learn more about preservation in person, more than 1,700 people have watched the Facebook Live event recording, spreading a positive message about Waynesboro’s historic community and historic preservation far and wide.

For more information or to see the list of past award winners, visit the Community Initiative Awards webpage.

PA SHPO coordinates state and federal historic preservation programs including the National Register of Historic Places, state and federal tax credits, and review of state and federal projects for their impact on historic resources.

The Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission is the official history agency of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Learn more by visiting PHMC online or following us on FacebookTwitterInstagram or LinkedIn.

MEDIA CONTACT: Howard Pollman, 717-705-8639

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