PAWV is pleased to announce that it is expanding its heritage tourism initiative, the West Virginia Historic Theatre Trail. In addition to having just added 6 significant theaters to the Trail, PAWV’s recent receipt of a $1000 mini-grant from the West Virginia Humanities Council will allow the organization to further promote the Trail.
The West Virginia Historic Theatre Trail is a statewide thematic tour of operational, historic theaters, encompassing both cinemas and live performance venues. All of the Trail’s theaters are listed in, or have been officially determined eligible for, the National Register of Historic Places – the official list of the nation’s historic places deemed worthy of preservation by the National Park Service. The Trail promotes the rehabilitation and sustainable operation of our state’s historic theaters for the enjoyment of the public.
The Trail was born in 2010 following a 2007 Preserve America grant award to the West Virginia Division of Culture and History’s State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), in partnership with PAWV, to develop statewide thematic tours to encourage heritage tourism in communities throughout the state. When it started, the Trail included 26 theaters across the state. By 2015, however, 4 Trail theaters had closed, and staff at various other historic theaters in West Virginia had been asking PAWV about how to be added to the Trail. During 2015 and early 2016, PAWV requested and received applications from additional historic theaters across the state. After using state heritage trail criteria to decide which to accept or reject, PAWV recently added 6 theaters to the Trail. The new members include:
The Trail now encompasses 28 members, spanning 21 of West Virginia’s 55 counties. For quotes from several of the organizations and agencies that operate or utilize the Trail’s new members, please see the end of this press release.
The Trail’s main public presence is a website run by PAWV (https://wvhistorictheaters.com/). It contains informational pages on each member theater; overarching Google Maps and theater trip itineraries, broken up by region of the state; historic theater resources (such as books, articles, and related organizations); links to the Convention and Visitors Bureaus (CVBs) for each theater’s area, etc. The Trail’s Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/wvhistorictheaters/) is where PAWV staff share member theaters’ events and post relevant news articles, press releases about the Trail, etc. PAWV also promotes the Trail and its member theaters through rack cards distributed to member theaters and their CVBs. Another marketing tool has been Trail interpretive signage, which PAWV presented to each original member theater to display inside. Those signs contain site-specific historical and architectural information, as well as information about the Trail itself.
Having added the 6 new member theaters, PAWV plans to launch a major promotional campaign for the Trail, utilizing the $1000 WV Humanities Council mini-grant funds. PAWV has already purchased a short, memorable URL and has updated the existing Trail website to include the new members throughout. Next, PAWV will design and print various promotional materials. Those will include interpretive signage for each new member, updated rack cards, and a portable, retractable banner showcasing the Trail.
Overall, these new promotional materials will serve as a valuable outreach tool – educating the public (both locals and tourists) about the Trail and its member theaters. Specifically, the rack cards will alert people that the member theaters exist and are open for visiting, offering entertainment in their communities. The interpretive signs and the banner will go more in-depth, helping to inform and educate viewers about the history, sociocultural importance, architectural significance, and historic preservation of the state’s operational, historic theaters (not only individually but as a group). Additionally, since many of the Trail’s theaters have been reopened after periods of closure or are adaptive reuses of other building types (such as historic churches), these promotional efforts will help demonstrate how historic preservation has been a successful revitalization and economic development tool in West Virginia.
To learn more about the West Virginia Historic Theatre Trail, visit https://wvhistorictheaters.com/ or email PAWV’s Preserve WV AmeriCorps member, Kelli Shapiro, PhD, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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