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A career captivated by stories of the past

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — When future museum curator Leslie Kim was a little girl, her parents took her on regular trips to the Albuquerque Museum.

Albuquerque Museum curator of history Leslie Kim.

“I remember the old exhibit ‘Four Centuries,’ it was down in the basement,” she said “I wasn’t particularly taken by all the armor. I remember being fascinated by the metate (a ground stone tool) and the indigenous materials.”

The Albuquerque born-and-raised former history teacher is now the curator of history at the Albuquerque Museum.

Long captivated by stories from the past, Kim spent most of the last two decades teaching history at Albuquerque Academy. She graduated from Colorado College with a bachelor’s degree in the subject. Kim remained in Colorado to work for the well-known Denver art collectors Jan and Frederick Mayer. The couple owns much of the Spanish Colonial art collection housed in the Denver Art Museum.

Kim also worked at the Denver Museum of Natural History before heading to the University of Arizona, where she earned her master’s degree with a concentration in colonial Mexico. She later interned at the university art museum, where she worked with 17th and 18th century prints and led a seminar on Spanish colonial art.

Kim says she loved teaching, but museum work kept calling.

“I didn’t have plans to move on, but when Deb (Slaney, former history curator) retired, I decided to throw my hat in the ring,” she said.

“I love material culture; the objects of life, the material we use,” she continued. “And I think it’s a wonderful window into the past. We have thousands and thousands of objects in the history collection.”

Acquisition is ongoing, as is updating the collection.

Kim is currently working on a virtual exhibit called “Seven Generations,” exploring political activism in indigenous communities. Fittingly, it’s slated for November. Posters and photographs will comprise the bulk of the show.

“They were sort of the rallying cry to action,” Kim said.

She’s also updating the “Only in Albuquerque” exhibit installed in 2015. Museum re-accreditation also looms.

Despite her forays into Colorado and Arizona, she says Albuquerque is home.

“My family’s here,” Kim said. “I love New Mexico. Obviously, I didn’t stray too far from the Southwest.”

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