GVMagazineSpring2016 - (Page 38)

ALU MNI NEWS Show me the money Alumna manages collection of 1 million monetary objects at Smithsonian by Matthew Makowski When Grand Valley alumna Hillery York walked into her living center as a first-year student, she carried a notecard on which she had diligently mapped out her life plan. This plan included using her college years to prepare herself for a career working with large animals as a veterinarian. As many students discover, however, sometimes life doesn't care about "their plan," but instead opens new and exciting doors through which change of direction can happen. During her first year as a Laker, York developed an affinity for academic history through her general education courses. "Sure, I was captivated by the Hollywood glamor of Indiana Jones and the mysterious history of ancient Rome, but I had never seriously considered academic history as a career," York said. "Honestly, had I not been encouraged to expand my academic horizons through prerequisite classes, I probably wouldn't have willingly taken history classes. Instead I was laser-focused on a career I thought I wanted." This new interest led her down the path to graduating from Grand Valley in 2012 with a bachelor's degree in history with an archaeology minor. Fast forward four years, and York, from Walker, is the collections manager at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History in the National Numismatic Collection. As collections manager, York is responsible for the more than 1.6 million monetary objects in the NNC's collection, which include coins, paper money, checks, tokens and more. This means she is tasked with acquiring new objects, cataloging and classifying items, performing inventories and rehousing initiatives, preparing objects for display and tracking object movement throughout all departments within the Smithsonian. "In my role, I am an advocate for these objects that cannot speak for themselves and am often called upon to make informed decisions regarding their 38 Spring '16 care," York said. "My job ensures these irreplaceable objects will be around for research and display for the next generation of museum professionals." York said other objects found in the geographically diverse collection range from present day polymer banknotes and 7th century Greek coins, to medals and non-traditional monetary objects, such as wampum, which are small cylindrical beads made by North American Indians from quahog shells used as money or for decoration. One of her favorite items in the collection is a silver tetradrachm (coin) from Ephesus in Ancient Greece dating to 390 B.C. that features a bee on one side. York's other favorite item is a little more obscure. and opportunities developing content for exhibitions at Grand Valley, York achieved a high level of professional experience in a niche field. She also broadened her knowledge by participating in the History Club and Archaeological Society, serving as president of the latter for a year. These experiences ultimately led to her acceptance into graduate school at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., where she earned a master's degree in museum studies in May 2014. While attending graduate school, York began an internship in the NNC. In January 2014, she was offered the position of collections manager. "I was instantly attracted to this "I am thankful ... that I had individuals who were willing to take on the extra burden of teaching me a field that is not typically offered at Grand Valley ..." Hillery York , '12, collections manager, Smithsonian's National Museum of American History "We have beard tokens from the reign of Peter the Great that are really wonderful," York said. "During this time, you would have to pay money to have a beard and you would carry the token around with you as proof." York attributed much of her current career placement to the support from faculty and staff members in the History Department who guided her when she chose to shift her focus to museum studies after her first year. "I am thankful every day that I had individuals who were willing to take on the extra burden of teaching me a field that is not typically offered at Grand Valley, as well as the time and effort they spent to make my career dreams a reality," York said. Utilizing directed research classes, internships at Michigan museums, collection because it is so diverse," York said. "As I spent more time in the collection, I began to realize that these objects had a big story to tell and I was interested in helping to share that story." As collections manager, York has led many initiatives for the Smithsonian, including the completion of a massive Rapid Capture Digitization program. The program employed a conveyor belt system to digitize more than 250,000 proof sheets from the Bureau of Engraving and Printing collection in less than five months. "The Rapid Capture Digitization project was one of my biggest accomplishments so far because we were able to gain control over a valuable collection that had been neglected since it arrived at the Institution," York said.

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of GVMagazineSpring2016

Campus News
Donor Impact
Q&A Faite Mack
Saddle up: professor leads research on speech therapy technique
Cultural competency in health care
Hot ideas and inventions
Focal Point
Life before Louie: making a mascot
Alumni News