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Alumna Success: Hannah Tisson Shields ’09
Alumna Success: Hannah Tisson Shields ’09
Hannah Tisson Shields '09
Randolph-Macon College alumna
Hannah Tisson Shields ’09
is curator of the Historical Resources & Museum Program, Department of Cultural Resources, in Raleigh, North Carolina. Shields majored in
and minored in
, subjects that remain critical to her professional success. Shields’ academic experience at Randolph-Macon prepared her well for a career that is fast-paced, challenging and rewarding.
While at R-MC, Shields connected her academic interests to opportunities outside of the classroom. She completed a
in Richmond, Virginia; a semester in Italy; and two summers working in Greece, building a strong professional foundation in art history.
Shields interned at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) in Richmond.
“I learned about the diverse career possibilities within museums, and I also made meaningful connections with professionals in the field,” says Shields, who researched and co-wrote a museum panel on Pierre-Auguste Renior while at the VMFA.
In her junior year, Shields spent a semester abroad in Perugia, Italy, where she attended the Università per Stranieri di Perugia, the most prestigious institution to learn Italian language and culture. Classes are taught entirely in Italian from the first day.
“Although the coursework was rigorous, my language skills increased exponentially in just a few months,” recalls Shields. “I could immediately practice the new words I’d learned—while buying groceries at the open-air market, ordering an espresso at a local café, or talking to my friends. The experience made me a more global citizen, something that’s very important in our increasingly interconnected and interdependent world.”
Excavations at the Agora
Shields also spent two summers as an archaeological excavator of the ancient
through the American School of Classical Studies in Athens, Greece. As a Summer Fellow under the direction of
R-MC Niarchos Professor of Classics John Camp II
, she excavated four diverse sections of the Agora, from the Classical through Byzantine periods.
“Working alongside American and international archaeologists, I gained firsthand experience in archaeological practices and ethics, ceramics history and analysis, collections management, and conservation,” she says. “It is amazing to consider how closely my experience in Greece relates to my career in cultural resource management.”
Lastly, Shields wrote her senior thesis supervised by her academic advisor, Art History Professor Evie Terrono.
“The process of conducting primary art historical research, writing and editing drafts, receiving critical feedback, and preparing a polished paper was a great culminating experience of my undergraduate education,” says Shields. “It challenged me to write a professional-level paper and to contribute my research to the field. It also prepared me for the demands of graduate school.”
“Hannah’s experience is representative of the hands-on learning opportunities that are available to art history majors,” says Terrono. “Her internship allowed her to experience the realities of museum work and use her research and writing skills, and during her senior thesis she honed further those skills. Through our weekly meetings we discussed the processes of scholarly research and Hannah articulated most successfully the complexities of her topic and its socio-cultural significance. Hannah’s accomplishments testify to her academic strengths as well as her very deliberate pursuit of all opportunities beyond graduation.”
In 2012, Shields earned a terminal M.A. in the History of Decorative Arts from the Smithsonian-Corcoran program in Washington, D.C. Her graduate studies included coursework in the history of material culture: ceramics, costume, craft, furniture, glass, metals/silver, textiles; and museum studies: curatorship, collections management, conservation, and exhibition design.
As curator, Shields manages the preservation, interpretation, and exhibition of over 18,000 artifacts across seven historic sites in Raleigh. Additionally, she is responsible for cultivating new accessions, including artifacts, fine and decorative art objects, photographs, archival materials, and other historic properties, for the City of Raleigh.
Shields is the recipient of numerous awards, including a Curatorial Fellowship at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History (2010-11) and a Graduate Fellowship at the Smithsonian American Art/National Portrait Gallery Library (2009-10). She has worked in collections management at several historic properties, including the National Center for White House History at the 1818 Decatur House and the Society of the Cincinnati Headquarters at the 1905 Anderson House, both in Washington, D.C.
The R-MC Experience
“A liberal arts education allows students to take coursework from a range of academic fields, providing an invaluable interdisciplinary education,” says Shields. “R-MC employs expert, engaged faculty who are truly invested in their students’ success. I love the fact that I’m still in touch with several of my professors, including Professor Terrono and Professor Ray Berry. They each had a special impact on me as a student, and now I’m proud to count them as professional mentors and friends.”
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