On June 15, Historic Athens will present its 51st Annual Athens Preservation Awards ceremony virtually via Facebook Live to adhere to safety limitations due to COVID-19. Historic Athens will broadcast an announcement of the winners from the historic Hot Corner area, a historic business district for African Americans.
Following the live broadcast of the winners, Historic Athens will continue the celebration with a multi-week live interview series of each winner each weeknight at 6 p.m., starting on June 22. Viewers will have the opportunity to ask questions during the livestream, view media from the winners and learn more about their preservation projects.
“We love our traditional award show, but doing it this way will open the doors for anyone who might have been interested in the white and blue banners everyone sees around town or preservation in general,” Tommy Valentine, executive director of Historic Athens, said.
The Preservation Awards began to “recognize and encourage local preservation efforts,” Valentine said. When businesses receive a white and blue banner for their preservation efforts, they tend to display it proudly and encourage others to take preservation seriously, he said.
While moving online, Historic Athens will include the Morton Theatre, as it has been their traditional location, by framing it in the backdrop from the Manhattan Café during the live interviews. Historic Athens is also making a contribution to the Manhattan Café’s employee relief fund as a thank you for being able to use their patio space, according to a press release.
“The Morton Theatre is a landmark of not only Athens history but of African Americans’ history, specifically,” Valentine said. “It’s also one of the most notable preservation locations in Athens, given with how it’s been saved and preserved.”
Although there are many differences between hosting an award ceremony traditionally versus online, Historic Athens is increasing the opportunity for user engagement and interaction with the Facebook live features.
Traditional events typically involve a “mixer type of event,” then guests sit down to watch the presentations. With the online platform, people are able to “tune in, ask questions and engage with people in the community,” Francis Oliver, Historic Athens intern, said.
Pre-coronavirus, Alex Sams, awards committee chair, had already considered the idea of taking historical preservation virtually by adding videos of the winning properties to the ceremony to social media, allowing the ceremony to carry on for more than one night, he said.
“You want to capture these moments so it sits with the people who are viewing the show,” Sams said. “Six months from now, you want someone to be able to look at the video, see the winner and understand it even if they missed the original ceremony.”
This year, Historic Athens plans on telling the stories of the properties rather than solely acknowledging preservation efforts, Sams said.
By capturing details about the people preserving these properties in Athens through the interviews, Historic Athens intends on encouraging more people to become educated in preservation, Valentine said.
“We’ve been wanting to extend this event and celebration of the projects regardless of circumstances,” Oliver said. “This year is a great opportunity to kick off this month-long event and invite the public to join us in the coming years by maintaining a virtual component.”