Since 1975, OHS has recognized specific pipe organs as being of distinctive character by presenting certificates of recognition. Initially OHS offered only one award, and by the end of 2011, 409 pipe organs had received Historic Organ Citations. Further information about the Historic Organ Citations program can be found on the Historic Organ Citation Database page.

As a part of ongoing review and general development in all its programs, OHS began a review of the Citations program in 2012. As a result of that review, the Citations program was brought to a close, and in 2013 a new program was instituted: Historic Pipe Organ Awards. Primary features of the Citations program have been retained. The new program continues to place highest value on pipe organs that remain unaltered in their original locations. Further, pipe organs must in general have been maintained in their historic state for at least fifty years before they are considered for an award, although exceptions may be allowed if circumstances warrant. Framed certificates are presented prepared and presented by an OHS official or designate, usually during a special recital or program or, if appropriate, during a special worship service. The certificates remain the property of OHS and are retained by the owner and displayed publicly so long as the pipe organ retains its historic characteristics.

Though these features of the Citations program have been retained, the Historic Pipe Organ Awards program is distinguished by its new content. It was designed to be in accord with the OHS Guidelines for Conservation and Preservation, and includes different types of awards, each one distinct in the way it recognizes the historic significance of a pipe organ.

The first of the awards is the Landmark of Organ Building. Organs that receive OHS Landmark status are selected first and foremost because they represent excellence in the art of organ building. This emphasis is reflected in the wording of the award, which designates the recipient "an instrument of unique historical value, worthy of preservation." Though they may be of any historic period and may be of any type or design, organs that receive Landmark status must have within them or be associated with some distinctive or unique feature.

In the language of the Guidelines for Conservation, these features may be artistic, musical, social or historic in nature. For example, the first organ or earliest surviving organ built by a specific American builder is of historic significance. On the other hand, an organ that represents the pinnacle of development in a discrete style of organ-building has both historic and musical significance. An organ that can be seen in retrospect to have established a new direction in organ-building is of historic significance, while an organ associated with the work of a major composer of organ music is of historic, musical and artistic significance. An organ that is documented as the only pipe organ in a certain region of the country is of social significance. An organ that has casework of outstanding beauty or that has another significant visual aspect as one of its integral components is of artistic significance. An organ that can be documented as having contributed to the growth of the pipe organ industry is of historic significance.

Although we continue to place the highest value on pipe organs that remain unaltered in their original locations, we recognize that at times removal of an organ in order to avoid its destruction may be necessary. For that reason, an organ that has been relocated without mechanical or tonal change is still eligible to be considered for this award. Similarly, though the Guidelines for Conservation recognize that restorative repairs are alterations to the historic record, such alterations are not considered barriers to the designation of Landmark of Organbuilding, so long as the organ's original tonal and mechanical properties are intact and unaltered.

Pipe organs can be used for decades or even centuries, of course, though over the years significant changes to them may be made for a variety of reasons. They may be modified tonally, modernized in some way, rebuilt, enlarged, or even changed completely in their mechanical aspect. It is the position of OHS that such alterations present a very real danger that musical, artistic and historic value may be lost. However, we also recognize that such changes might at other times result in increased musical and artistic value, and such an altered instrument may achieve historic value in its modified state. If it has been in use for fifty years after the changes were made, such a modified instrument might then be eligible for designation as an OHS Landmark pipe organ.

A second award designates an instrument a National Heritage Pipe Organ. Instruments that receive this award are also selected because they represent excellence in the art of organ building. This emphasis is reflected in the wording of the certificate, which designates an organ "an instrument of rare historical value, worthy of preservation." Although unique features, such as those described for Landmark status, are not required or expected, any pipe organ receiving a National Heritage Pipe Organ award must meet all other requirements for designation as a Landmark of Organbuilding. Specifically, they must be of demonstrated and documented artistic, musical, social or historic value to such an extent that they stand out from others like them. For example, an electro-pneumatic organ of the 1950s may not be the only such instrument made by a given builder, but it may qualify as an organ of rare musical value because of the particulars of its installation. Similarly, one of several of the surviving tracker organs built by a firm in the final years before WWI is of rare historic value, though it may not be the only such survivor.

Anyone can nominate an organ for a Historic Pipe Organ Award: membership in the Society is not required. (Of course, we are always happy to welcome new members, too!) Further details are included in the two links below. The first is to a one-page Awards Application form, which must be submitted as part of the nomination or application for either of the awards listed above. The second is to a detailed description of the information and supporting documents that must accompany any nomination.

We welcome nominations for both the awards. Please address any questions you may have to the OHS Councillor for Education, James H. Cook or to the Chair of the Historic Organ Awards Committee, Sebastian Gluck.

Historic Pipe Organ Awards Application Form

Historic Pipe Organ Required Support Materials