Celebrate Historic Preservation Month
May is Preservation Month – a nationally recognized celebration of historic places and an opportunity to raise awareness about the importance of preservation. At the Iowa Downtown Resource Center, historic preservation is an integral part of the work that we do. After all, downtown is the core of our communities; a place that tells us about community character, history and culture. The social and economic benefits of historic preservation are evident in communities across Iowa where historic downtown buildings house small, local businesses and provide a backdrop for beloved community gatherings and traditions.
While preservation of these places is an ongoing effort – often taking place behind the scenes every day – Preservation Month provides a shared opportunity to highlight its importance alongside communities across the country.
Make sure your downtown is part of the celebrations this May (and beyond!). We’ve highlighted a few ideas below to get you started.
- Organize a tour of historic places in your downtown district.
Think outside the box of the typical walking tour and consider a themed event or partner with like-minded organizations to engage new audiences. In Bloomfield, a kid-friendly historic walking tour hosted in partnership with the public library planted early seeds about local history. An upper story tour in Centerville showcased a recently finished housing project and three yet-to-be-developed spaces, sparking new conversations about opportunities among attendees and local elected officials. And in Mason City, an annual Haunted Historic Building Tour hosted by local ‘spirits’ provides a memorable evening while learning about downtown building history.
- Hold a preservation scavenger hunt.
Audiences of all ages can enjoy this easy to implement activity. An annual ‘What Do You See’ scavenger hunt in Conrad engages first graders with the downtown district, tasking them with identifying downtown buildings and their uses. In Grundy Center, a historical building scavenger hunt held as part of a downtown block party offered prizes to participants and turned into a larger conversation among local partners about activating downtown buildings.
- Host a guest speaker for a preservation-related lecture or how-to workshop.
Find a topic that fits local needs and interests. In Cedar Falls, a recent workshop on historic tax credits was geared toward interests of downtown building and business owners. While in Le Mars, recent workshops topics have ranged from grant writing to hands-on window restoration.
- Use social media to share snapshots of district history.
Posting historic photographs with hashtags like #throwbackthursday and #flashbackfriday are easy places to start. The Historic Valley Junction Foundation in West Des Moines posts a ‘Friday Flashback’ photo on their social media accounts each week, featuring historic photos of places and people in the district with a brief description. Also keep an eye on the National Trust for Historic Preservation as Preservation Month approaches – they often provide easily sharable content and social media graphics.
- Celebrate local achievements.
Preservation, like downtown revitalization, is an incremental process. Having fun and celebrating wins along the way is important and Preservation Month provides a natural setting for recognition. Whether you host a formal awards ceremony, like the long-standing Historic Preservation Awards in Dubuque, or simply acknowledge good work being done in social media or local newspaper shoutouts, take the time to celebrate progress and victories along the way.