10 Tips for Becoming a Conservator

Many of us emerging conservation professionals agree that our initial venture into the field of conservation was somewhat unguided, and making connections with people was nearly impossible. With social media as accessible as it is today, information should be much more readily disseminated and networking with other students and conservators should be an obtainable goal.

Moving in that direction, I have compiled what I consider to be the ten most useful tips in pursuing a career in conservation; these tips were originally intended for pre-program students, but looking back through them, I believe they can apply to conservators of all levels. Being pre-program myself, I’m certainly no expert on ‘becoming a conservator,’ but I have taken the advice of faculty members at the conservation schools, my mentors, and my co-workers to compile this [hopefully helpful] list for you.

Paper conservation lab at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

Tip #1: Visit conservators at their studio/lab

You can find conservators in your area by looking through the Geographical Index of the AIC directory (if you’re a member) or through the ‘Find a Conservator’ feature on the AIC website. Also, you can search for a specific city or museum through CoOL’s ‘Finding People’ page—just hit ctrl + F after choosing the country.

Touring a conservation studio provides both an educational and a networking opportunity. You will see how the space is set up, what type of equipment they use, and the treatments that are in-progress. Also, you have the chance to meet all of the people that work in that space and learn about each person’s path to becoming a conservator.

If you’re looking for internship experience, lab visits can be a way of getting your foot in the door; sometimes people are more willing to take you on as an intern after getting to know you in person. It may be a good idea to bring along a cv and portfolio of studio art to show your hand skills, and don’t forget to send a thank you card!

Stay tuned for tip #2….

5 thoughts on “10 Tips for Becoming a Conservator”

  1. The AIC guide to conservators is a good place to start, but "Finding a Conservator" only lists Professional Associates and Fellows, not the entire membership.

    So if it looks like there are no conservators in your area, there might be, they just might not have gotten their PA or Fellow member status, and are therefore not in the "Finding a Conservator" query.

    The AIC Directory lists everyone, but is only available to members…

  2. Great tip Heather! I think lab visits are so important, to make connections with conservators and to see what cool tools and gadgets they have, which is definitely helpful later in your career.

    I am looking forward to the tips posts!

  3. Thank you very much for starting the ten tips. I am just at the beginning stages of pursuing graduate studies for art conservation and finding info on what is needed in the beginning, experience wise, is scarce.

    I look forward to reading them all!

  4. I can't agree more with Heather about Tip #1. That's how I made "first contact" with conservation when I was in high school; I made a blind phone call to my local museum and met with the conservator there, not knowing what conservation was, really. But seeing the lab essentially broke the ice for me and made it easier to approach other conservators. It's all about the connections you make early on!

Comments are closed.