Alex B. Lim, an architectural conservator at Tumacacori National Historical Park, talks about how he discovered his passion for cultural heritage preservation and the importance of passing on knowledge to future generations.


– šŸ§‘ā€šŸŽ“ Alex discovered his passion for cultural heritage preservation while studying abroad in Italy.

– šŸ‘©ā€šŸ”¬ As an architectural conservator, Alex applies knowledge of mathematics and physics to understand how buildings and landscapes hold up over time.

– šŸŒŽ Alex is particularly engaged with tribal members on both sides of the US-Mexico border, where he helps conserve Earthen buildings and Native American Heritage.

– šŸ™Œ Alex is currently training interns in the basics of preservation and architecture, emphasizing the importance of continuing knowledge for preserving fragile heritage sites.

– šŸ¤ Alex maintains a healthy relationship with partners in Mexico to ensure that preservation efforts are done correctly.

3 & A Possible Live Chat: Alex B. Lim – YouTube


(00:00) hi good morning everyone our afternoon depending on where you’re calling in from or tuning in from I am Monica Rhodes and it gives me great pleasure to introduce this new video series entitled three and impossible so as we know histories are often multi-layered and the name of this show is no exception

(00:22) if you are a space player then you know this phrase this is a phrase you would use when you’re predicting how many books you have in your hand when you’re trying to win the game three impossible also represents the essence of cultural preservation which is not just a conversation about the past but one that concerns the future as

(00:41) well three in a possible is predictive through this series I will be chatting with experts in the preservation space and asking three and possibly four questions per interview this is a free-flowing discussion with my community of this so without further Ado I’d like to introduce Alex Lim joins us from tumakakri National Historical Park

(01:05) in Arizona uh Alex is an architectural conservator and he joined the park service in 2012. he conserves Earthen buildings and their remains focusing on Hispanic and Native American Heritage he is particularly engaged with tribal members on both sides of the U.S Mexico border including uh the komosaki sarri in populations who

(01:29) have Rich Heritage that continues to remain vulnerable yet highly relevant to those who care for Collective and diverse cultural heritage through Hands-On workshops tours and internship programs he regularly advocates for Heritage stewardship before Arizona Alex worked on archaeological sites of the arid climate

(01:53) in the U.S Southwest and in the Mediterranean Middle East he holds a master’s of Science in historic preservation from the University of Pennsylvania and the Bachelor’s in Natural Sciences from John Hopkins University so Alex thank you for joining the conversation today we’ll jump right in and I’ll ask you how did

(02:13) you how did you get started in historic preservation how did you learn about the work that you’re currently leading with the National Park Service hi Monica hi everybody uh man my path to this field has been like it’s been a journey really it still is a journey um I’m originally from Korea my family

(02:37) moved to the states when I was 16 eastern part of Pennsylvania and growing up my parents would pick me and my brother to a lot of Heritage sites and there are many places British temples Royal palaces or just a little place where a famous author lived um these really formed the backbone of my interest in Harry’s deal but it never

(03:02) occurred to me as uh um specific profession it was it happened when I moved to the U.S um as I was trying to find my identity my footing in this role um and I was a pre-med at Johns Hopkins I mean it’s a lot of talented people studying medicine then at some point it really kind of give me a chance to examine why am I

(03:28) studying science engineering um I and I was really struggling I was looking for ways to reconnect with what I really care and the answer was history and arts in the past so I was able to study abroad in Italy um first semester which was marvelous um I didn’t know that you were in Italy where were you

(03:58) I was in Florence for about three months okay uh Johns Hopkins University program on the south side of the Arnold River many Hills we we had I lost a lot of weight even though I was eating a lot of food drink a lot of wine but that was really what I needed um because it provide a setting that’s very different from you know just Street

(04:24) molester Street mall of uh American suburbs or really kind of sometimes depressing Downtown City core yeah um it is a place where history is really celebrated appreciated um and still it’s on the present day so um and then I would like to mention the third part where in order to stay connected to my culture and Heritage I

(04:52) continue reading books in Korean and this one Professor named Hong Jun Yu he’s a studied art histories professor of art history and he wrote a series of books on his travels throughout Korea highlighting why certain places matter but in the very subjective way why appeals to the team and through these readings I was able to

(05:19) really maintain that connection to where I’m where I’m from and where I want to be so um I just kind of summarized yeah pre-med background science backgrounds a lot of chemistry all that biology but this humanism side of the cultural heritage preservation really structured them all together for me and that’s

(05:46) where um that’s what led me to this field right now yeah that’s that’s great and I and I you know Alex we met because we were both students at UPenn and uh I was I you know when when I came into the program you were focusing in on conservation science um so I didn’t know about your Natural Sciences background so that kind of

(06:07) makes sense and it you know makes me you know think about this next question but I just want to spend some some time here for a second why why conservation sounds like what about the the what I you know the stem side of historic preservation can you tell us a little bit more about what that is and how that relates to the

(06:24) work that you do now well preservation is ultimately about materials and how there are examples right the buildings even the landscape you know it has to be material like something tangible so in order to protect them observing how they behave in nature how they hold up in nature is is an aspect that’s absolutely needed

(06:54) um I’m not saying I’m a conservationist scientist they’re really really mind downstairs and their research um what I do mostly is really applying what they have found in observed over the years knowledge in applying to the that I uh helped so you know understanding mathematics uh physics these are all relevant

(07:26) understanding in order for you to say oh this wall is because of gravity and because the bricks are not held together right falling apart you need to have that facing understanding um just as much as doctors have to understand your pathology how you eaten spread But ultimately it’s about how you use that you know why you acknowledge

(07:50) that really takes you to the next level in my mind that that was the attraction of the field because you can apply that knowledge yeah I love that and and for for those tuning in uh you know you may see some some choppiness on the screen it’s fine uh you know Tim mccockery is in Arizona and it’s a remote location so uh this is

(08:16) the the beauty of working in these these places um certainly beautiful but technology and and high-speed internet doesn’t get everywhere or go everywhere uh so we’re we’re we’re cowering through that but you know Alex he’s coming in strong but the the video may be a bit choppy so no worries about that we the conversation

(08:38) continues so so Alex um with that with the the importance of the work that you do around Heritage management what are what are some projects that you’re currently working on like what are you focusing on uh these days over right now uh my main focus is training up our uh interns right now uh we are part of this partnership with

(09:01) American conservation experience and they have a specific program called traditional trades investment programs thank you and we have an intern who for six months learning the basics of threats and architecture preservation and viewership starting with what soils are what are month breaks water Adobe

(09:22) how do you feel the wall with them how the walls come together to form a building and how these buildings uh last over time in this specific climate that people may think Arizona is dry and hot we do get rain we sometimes even get snow there are agents that are forcing these materials to change their

(09:47) form so um this is a very the for me the most fun aspect because preservation is about continuation and continuing the knowledge of these super fragile Earth and architecture is of utmost importance um you know I someone like me conservators come and go but what really you want to share is is the love for your local Heritage

(10:17) um and and the understanding of what you’ve learned from other people other experts how to take care of these places so that has that is my main emphasis right now of course we have some really cool projects with other Partnerships uh institution Parts uh partner institutions looking at painted finishes

(10:37) inside the church Spanish era and all this research get used by uh similar missions in the area we maintain healthy relationship with our colleagues in Mexico um so that we can together do the do the right thing uh right now for the last five months five five weeks or so been working outside in the sun working on

(11:05) this Earth and ruin and it’s been a lot of fun so this is a nice little break being in the office yeah yeah you know I I particularly struck me what she said about the uh you know young people getting excited and uh the continuity of preservation so when I when I think about it it’s like yeah we have these

(11:26) buildings we have these historic places and they’re preserved and we want to preserve those stories of course but when I when I uh did the Hope crew program which stands for the Hands-On preservation experience one thing that I that I realized um is that you know the the participants are becoming a part of the story so

(11:43) while you’re preserving you are becoming a part of the reason why that’s standing a hundred years from now Like You by stewarding and participating in this process you are you you are you you’re part of it you become the a piece an important piece of the story that and people that you have never met the

(12:05) people who have haven’t been born or people who have died before you were born you’re connecting them in that same way um because you know you at some point in time or y’all at some point in time had a how to focus in on ensuring and had identified that this place is important and these skills that we have are

(12:23) important and we want to put you’re going to put them to use here uh and so I think you you bring up a beautiful point of the connection uh that preservation uh how how preservation connects people across place and time by the act of just preserving in addition to you know the building and the stories

(12:42) that are embodied uh in these places I yeah I couldn’t agree more uh I mean it’s funny if I think about my career here I mean like I mentioned I’m from Korea I have nothing to do with this region and for whatever reason um uh I ended up here and I’m helping people preserve their hairs but it’s what’s more interesting is

(13:06) they see me as somebody who is interested in their history of their culture and you mentioned uh Native Americans um it’s not just Mexican culture here or suspenseful when you’re close over here it’s also the Borderlands and Borderlands is defined by the interactions between the U.S and Mexican its nationality

(13:30) people who have lived here a long time so there are many many entities that form form the unique space called Borderland and for me to be part of that that’s very exciting that’s very American that’s something that you know if I if I were living somewhere else be totally different but people have been welcoming me here and it feels good

(14:09) that I’m being part of the community um and like to continue that yeah and the other thing I think I want to just kind of double click on is this you know U.S Mexico border and managing Heritage you know help being a part of that community on both sides of the border right uh and I’d just like to hear a bit more like as I’m over here in

(14:33) Italy now um just thinking how uh you know cultural heritage and and and having these conversations brings our communities together because we’re working around this problem we see these histories are as important and I’ve found Great Value in connecting with people from different parts of the world

(14:51) who are also working on uh Heritage issues so I just like to hear from your perspective what has that experience been like uh uh working with our colleagues out of the Border you know diversity is a fantastic thing because I mean imagine a world where everybody’s the same like like the word identity would have no meaning and

(15:15) everybody’s the same the Borderlands is dramatic it’s exactly the gation of diversity in place people can see the contrast when they leave Nogales Arizona on the U.S side to enter Mexican side Nogales the LCD media change um the climate’s the same like you know the photography is the same it’s really how people have more or

(15:39) less as a group evolved over time and manifest materially if we’re talking about Phil’s Heritage and so that’s that’s a really exciting thing and that’s why I love traveling where you see differences where in by looking at differences aspects of different lives you really get to reflect back and discover more about yourself

(16:06) which I which is what I’m doing uh you know I’m an immigrant to this country um you know I will remain a Korean um because that’s how who I am and I do my part to stay connected with my culture whether speaking the language practicing and as as a father to a daughter who is Half Men Mexican half Korean

(16:32) and my um responsibility to make sure that what I care about gets passed on to my daughter so uh and and that is so common here I mean you see Americans marrying Mexicans down here you know yeah he’s marrying off them it’s so diverse and you know although on paper it’s just two nice nation state there are more to it

(16:58) than people realize or what they see underneath yeah yeah I I I couldn’t agree more and I I’m also thinking about and I appreciate you uh bringing up the fact that you know you’re you’re thinking about the the future that you want to create for your daughter right so it’s not even like yeah you know when you

(17:19) when we met you know we were grad students and it was just us kind of thinking you know like this you know a different season of life you know it’s all about yeah well what is purpose of this work that we’re doing like what you know what’s the why behind it you know because life life moves fast and if you’re not thinking you know two

(17:42) two three four steps ahead 50 years ahead you know whatever um you know you’re you’re you’re playing a short time right like you’re thinking you think it’s small so I I appreciate you for like centering um your daughter in this conversation Alex how’s she doing by the way well it’s it’s very important because

(18:01) ultimately yeah because identity um starts from home you know if you’re born your parents begin the initial formation of your identity who you are and to be not part of it I mean autonomous chats you know people can get sucked into work commute to work all they need to but um ultimately you have to think about

(18:29) what why am I you know working hard to do yeah whatever um so that’s a really precious time and but but you know what I want to emphasize is that every preservation whether now or in the future really I think it has to be begin at the local level uh you don’t have to try to say just Global and mix everything in

(19:02) because then you don’t have anything every local history matters and I what I’ve seen over the years living here in Southern Arizona is one of very few Koreans 11 years is that there are people who have stuck around in one small area times that do their part whether they are in the news or not doing their part and

(19:31) they’re the ones that really continue that local heritage so it’s very important to give them a job highlight them and really appreciate for what they do and they’re not even doing it for money I mean they don’t even realize it they are just thinking probably oh yeah it’s a family business we’ve been running for three generations

(19:55) or well it’s a business design Heritage you know making local food uh you know traditional trades you know making adobe’s these are something that requires time fixed in a particular region and the the expression of these um experiences the knowledge city of pain is very precious and American country there’s so many of these local

(20:22) local um um cultures and you know people think oh it’s you know for my vacation I’m going to go to Europe you know after traveling across this country boy there’s a lot to see I mean there’s really a lot and a lot to support so wherever you are whether you live in Baltimore whether you’re from Chicago

(20:50) you know or whether you’re from I mean there’s so many things everybody can do there’s always story there’s always connections to be made so uh it’s I mean I think it’s very exciting time because um with all this technology all that there are a lot more things that people can do yeah absolutely as we say in in um in

(21:13) our field like all preservation is local it’s like all politics like the strongest the strongest laws with the the sharpest teeth they’re at your your local level that’s where people are watching that’s where people feel most connected to it um you know any any you know National Park that we know of or uh uh you know

(21:32) huge preservation effort it all started at the local level from a group of people saying we want to elevate this story we want to elevate this site uh to National significance and that was local strategy and people being committed to and knowing that their stories were important enough for the nation to know

(21:50) about it so spot on yeah I just want to give a shout to some local uh groups that uh are uh need of you know highlight and you can’t not go right on the border border border culture Buffalo soldiers were stationed there um Adobe buildings uh parts of them in the ruins uh or these motor courts in Tucson I mean I mean

(22:21) it’s just you know where people were traveling through the country to La whatever from coast to coast passing through Tucson there are different Tucson in um owned by CMAs Community College uh Mr Javier outside of Tucson our kind of sister Mission Unit and of course where I work through McCaffrey these are all

(22:43) local and local people have taken care of them will continue to be like that um that’s how it’ll stay relevant stay important stay sustainable yeah so so with Devin Ross we’re kind of thinking about the future and sustainability you know I’m I’m curious uh Alex what what do you see as as the future of of our field what should we be

(23:07) thinking about talking about where should we put in our our money uh what should the the the the the students who were where we were you know say a few years ago what should they be focusing their their work on these days what are you what are your thoughts well um I think if you are if you are a student

(23:28) um I mean we talk about what do we want the students to learn um so that they can be skewers down the road I I would like to mention the one of the most important things that schools and classrooms don’t cover that is Imagination I’ve seen I’ve seen people who see a vision they have a dream you know when

(23:53) they look at the United States person buildings uh if you are a developer or just looking at these buildings as real estate they won’t see them but people who have emotions of emotional attachments or who wants to form that connection they use their imagination like no other and I think it all starts from that so

(24:22) the future of preservation what do I one to emphasize imagine as much as you can nobody is going to penalize you but also to have greater imagination the greater the breath of imagination travel a lot go see how others live go see how others take care of other places go visit all these different locals just increase

(24:46) your capacity the tenacity for imagination boy and you’ll just make a big big change I I think that’s where your future is well well said I I uh man that’s um that’s that spot on Alex I I dig that because that you you’re right uh when when we think about preservation most folks find themselves in the

(25:12) regulatory space in the policy space and you know old and Imagination or old Innovation um you know we don’t necessarily find those often in the same conversations or even the same sentences so I I uh I appreciate you for underscoring that the the work that we’ve done takes imagine and to think about our future is going

(25:32) to take even more of it and and not being beholden uh to to the to the way that we’ve done things just because that’s the way that we’ve done them right yeah so so Alex is as we as we wrap up uh is there anything else you’d like to share particularly how do how do people follow you are you on the Twitter

(25:52) the LinkedIn uh where where are where where can we uh follow your work foreign well I you know I work for National Park Service we care for many sites throughout the country so I would just urge you to become a strong fan of Park Service I know you are already but not just um blind followers um we we get paid by taxpayer money it’s

(26:17) a federal agency it it really needs a Vigilant examination of how we operate water our strengths but also weaknesses opportunities and challenges um I don’t believe in the supporting entity does blindly be a critical have a critical mind uh but also expressive and believe that creative minds can really uh Advance a

(26:47) lot of our country’s needs and um it’ll it’ll be fun that way yeah well I I appreciate you for for taking the time and for everyone uh to become fans of the the national parks because there there are they belong to the to the public uh and uh Alex I can’t again can’t thank you enough for joining in it’s good to see you wait to see you

(27:13) in person uh it’s been it’s been too long come visit come visit yeah yeah for sure for sure well uh as we uh uh for next week y’all please feel free to tune in again uh we’ll be joined by Jason Church of the national Center for preservation technology and training uh also uh staying in the MPS world uh

(27:37) for next week so uh tune in uh next Tuesday at 11 A.M Eastern and thank you again for for joining in and Alex appreciate you man I’ll see you later see you later

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