ASHLAND Heather Akers didn’t know until she started working at the Highlands Museum and Discovery Center just how rich Ashland’s historical heritage is.
Now she sees the museum, and her hometown’s past, as her career.
Akers was born and raised in Ashland. She graduated from Paul G. Blazer High School and went on to study history at Morehead State University.
After her college graduation she, like many other recent graduates, was anxious to find a job in her field. Knowing she wanted to work in a museum, Akers decided to take the first step in advancing her career. However, she didn’t have to look far to find that her dream would soon come true.
“One day shortly after graduation I planned to go here (the Highlands) and to the Huntington Museum of Art and offer to volunteer. Well, I stopped after I got here. I’m sure the Huntington museum is great but they (the Highlands) immediately were like ‘Sure we’d love to have you volunteer,’ since my background was in history. So I stayed here. I volunteered for about two years and then they hired me part-time. I was here like one day a week, so I worked two jobs for a little while. And then I think it was in 2010 they hired me full-time as their curator.”
Akers’ family is built on a firm foundation of support. She said her parents have always been very supportive of anything she and her brothers were involved in.
“All of us were in marching band in high school so they were band parents, band boosters. And then when I came on here they came with me here, they’re both part of the Friends of the Highlands, they help with a lot of different fundraising things here.”
Although she would have been happy to start her career anywhere after her graduation, Akers said she is happy she could stay home. “I would have preferred it to have been this museum, since it was my hometown. I wanted to stay here.”
“I’ve always liked history in general, that was the only subject I was good at really. But it also just happened to be one I enjoyed. But I didn’t really realize until I started working here how much history Ashland has. Like, when I’d read about history I’d focus on Europe, or China, or Japan, and then when I got here and started researching local history I was like, wow all kinds of stuff has happened here that I had no idea. So, it’s very cool. We have history here as well. You always think of the bigger picture but, this is on a smaller scale.”
Akers’ favorite exhibit, called Piece of Ashland, is on display on the main floor of the museum now. It features many items that are important to Ashland history.
“It’s the largest one (exhibit) I’ve done that’s just about Ashland in particular. We’ve found lots of great photographs to go with it and some of the key pieces that we have in the collections are out in it. It’s definitely my favorite.”
Out of the many pieces on display in the exhibit, Akers mentioned three that stood out to her.
“There’s a desk up there that was from the old post office, a pigeon hole desk. That’s a recent donation, that’s a really great piece. There’s a Poage family Bible, you know Poage is the founding family of here (Ashland), that’s very cool. There’s a tea service up there that belonged to Gov. (Simeon) Willis. It’s really beautiful, that’s a great piece as well.”
After six years working full-time at the museum, Akers doesn’t think she would ever leave. “I can’t think of what would make me leave,” she said. Her love for Ashland runs as deep and is just as rich as its history.
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