How to become a Conservator

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. Conservators specialise in a range of areas, including paper, paintings, photographs, social and cultural artefacts, bookbinding and archives, furniture, archaeological materials, buildings and historic sites, outdoor sculpture and large technology objects, textiles and preventative conservation.

Personal requirements for 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. 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.


Additional information

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

Duties & Tasks of a Conservator

Conservators:

  • 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.

Tasks

  • Consults with curators, owners or custodians about items..
  • Advises staff or collectors on how to best care for artefacts, including how to store, display and transport them..
  • May advise and consult with community groups, over the treatment of cultural artefacts..
  • Takes photographs of items before and after treatments..
  • Ensure items going on exhibition are in good condition..
  • Keeps records of all decisions and the results of any treatments carried out..
  • Is involved in the disaster recovery of items (treating items that are water damaged)..
  • Researches history of items..
  • Chooses the best method of treatment and treats items..
  • Analyses and test items to determine the material they are made of, their condition, and to confirm their identification and authenticity..
  • Researches aspects of conservation such as the materials and techniques used to create a group of artefacts..

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.


Specializations

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. Conservators specialise in a range of areas, including paper, paintings, photographs, social and cultural artefacts, bookbinding and archives, furniture, archaeological materials, buildings and historic sites, outdoor sculpture and large technology objects, textiles and preventative conservation.

  • Average age
    Average age
    46 years
  • Future Growth
    Future Growth
    Very strong
  • Gender Share
    Gender Share
    67% female
  • Average full-time
    Average full-time
    40 hours
  • Weekly Pay
    Weekly Pay
    $2,094
  • Skill level rating
    Skill level rating
    Very high skill
  • Unemployment
    Unemployment
    Lower unemployment
  • Full-Time Share
    Full-Time Share
    62% Full-Time
  • Employment Size
    Employment Size
    460 workers
  • Employment Size
    Employment by state
    ACT: 14.1%
    NSW: 33.8%
    NT: 0.7%
    QLD: 11.2%
    SA: 8.4%
    TAS: 3.7%
    VIC: 22.0%
    WA: 6.2%
  • Employment Size
    Age brackets
    15-19: 0.7%
    20-24: 2.2%
    25-34: 14.6%
    35-44: 29.2%
    45-54: 24.8%
    55-59: 11.1%
    60-64: 8.5%
    65 and Over: 8.9%
  • Employment Size
    Education level
    Advanced Diploma/Diploma: 10.4%
    Bachelor degree: 36.9%
    Certificate III/IV: 7.7%
    Post Graduate/Graduate Diploma or Graduate Certificate: 38.9%
    Year 10 and below: 3%
    Year 11: 0.7%
    Year 12: 2.5%
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