MHPN needs your help to identify our 2012 winners!

I’ve got the best job at MHPN.

Every year at the MHPN annual conference in May, preservationists from around the state gather on Friday night to honor Michigan’s finest: the best restoration projects, the people, organizations, and communities who made those projects possible, and the individuals who have devoted a lifetime to preserving our state’s historic resources.

As chair of the awards committee, I and my fellow committee members get the opportunity to review and choose these “best of the best” every year – a task we find enormously fun and rewarding. Yes, sometimes we have to make some hard decisions, but we know that doing so keeps an MHPN award a meaningful and prestigious honor.

We’re ready to do it again next May 11th in Flint, and our 2012 awards nomination form is now available online. We’re asking YOU to let us know what projects and people you think are worthy of one of our awards, by submitting your nomination by Wednesday, February 22, 2012. This year, the awards form has been revised considerably to streamline the process and make it easier for nominators to complete the submission entirely electronically.

I’d like to share some thoughts about what the awards committee looks for in a submission.

First, and foremost, we need you to tell us a story. The nomination this year asks for a minimum of 500 words of narrative describing the project or the achievement of the person or organization being nominated. We have to know why this project, person, or group was important, what was accomplished, and who accomplished it. Here is your chance to sell us on why the nominee is worthy of one of our awards.

Before: Interior Detail of 101 South Division, Grand Rapids

Nearly as important, especially for a building or landscape project, are PHOTOS. The nomination asks for a minimum of 6-10 photos, but please don’t be afraid to send us more! Photos sell the project’s story as much as the narrative does, and I’ll give you a hint: the committee (and our audience) LOVES seeing those cringeworthy before photos (peeling plaster and ugly 1970s rehabs preferred!) juxtaposed with the beautiful afters.

After: Interior Detail, 101 South Division, an MHPN 2010 Tax Credit Award Winner

Don’t forget to include historic photos, which show us what a great job the project did in respecting the historic character of the resource. And make sure the photos are at a high resolution (300dpi), so we can make them look pretty on the screen at the awards ceremony.

Of course, the committee doesn’t just make its decision based on pretty pictures and words. A basic requirement is that the project or work of the owner, community, or individual meets the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties. While we wish that we could recognize some of the well-intentioned work out there that doesn’t meet the Standards, we have to maintain the principles established by our profession to keep them meaningful.

Felt Estate Water Garden, Laketown Township, one of the first winners of the 2011 Preservation Gem Award

Finally, I want to remind you that in choosing awards, size does NOT matter. A monumental building restoration is not necessarily more award-worthy than a very well done bungalow rehab. In fact, we had so many submissions of lovely small scale restorations like porches and theater marquees that we established a brand new category last year – the Preservation Gem award – to recognize such efforts.

So please remember to get your award nominations in by February 22, 2012, so the awards committee can start doing its job!

Ruth Mills, MHPN Awards Committee Chair
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