How to become a Conservator

Conservators plan, organise and undertake the preservation and conservation of materials and objects in private, public and community collections, including libraries, archives, museums, art galleries, art centres, and historical and archaeological sites.

Personal requirements of a Conservator

  • Patient with the capacity for fine manual work
  • Aptitude for science, particularly chemistry and physics
  • Aptitude for using computers
  • Attention to detail
  • Ability to understand and apply professional and ethical codes of conduct
  • Artistic interests such as sculpture, painting and drawing
  • Aptitude for technical tasks
  • Normal colour vision
  • Sensitivity to Indigenous and ethnic cultural issues
  • Interest in history, art history and materials technology

Education & Training for a Conservator

To become a conservator you usually have to complete a degree in heritage, museums and conservation at university. Alternatively, you can complete a science, arts or fine art degree with a major that is relevant to cultural materials conservation, followed by a Master of Cultural Materials Conservation at the Grimwade Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation. To get into the degree courses you usually need to gain your Senior Secondary Certificate of Education. Most universities in Australia offer relevant degrees. Entry to postgraduate courses usually requires completion of an appropriate bachelor degree. Universities have different prerequisites and some have flexible entry requirements or offer external study. Contact the institutions you are interested in for more information. For full details, refer to the entries on the website at www.goodcareersguide.com.au or university handbooks. Before enrolling in an undergraduate degree, you should consult the Grimwade Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation for information about degrees and majors that will allow you to enter their postgraduate program.

Duties & Tasks of a Conservator

Conservators may perform the following tasks:

  • examine and evaluate the condition of objects and confirm their identification and authenticity
  • organise systematic inspection of collections and prepare written and photographic reports
  • advise on the optimum storage and display conditions for the objects in their care (such as correct light, relative humidity, integrated pest management and temperature control)
  • advise on the correct methods for handling, storing, displaying and transporting works of art and artefacts
  • conduct research into the material, technological or historical nature of collections, as well as materials and techniques critical for their preservation and sustainability
  • undertake extensive research into deterioration problems within collections in order to inform collections management
  • undertake and record the details of conservation and restoration procedures to correct damage or control deterioration.

Employment Opportunities for a Conservator

Most conservators are employed in cultural institutions such as museums, libraries, art galleries, archives, historic houses, art centres and cultural, heritage and digital industries. An increasing number of conservators are taking up positions in the private sector. Competition may be strong for the limited number of positions available.

Additional Information
Graduates may be eligible for professional membership of the Australian Institute for the Conservation of Cultural Material.
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