What they do
Conservators use a combination of science and art to preserve and restore art and historical artefacts. They organise regular and systematic inspection of a collection to examine and evaluate the condition of objects, checking for damage to be repaired and ensuring they are stored in optimum conditions to minimise deterioration. Some conservators may be responsible for confirming an object's identification and authenticity. They may also undertake their own research into deterioration problems and conservation and restoration procedures, developing new methods to preserve and maintain collections.
Conservators typically work in a studio or laboratory environment, usually in museums, galleries or off-site storage facilities. They often work in environments where the temperature, lighting and humidity is controlled and specially designed to preserve the objects in a collection. Some conservators may work freelance, travelling between collections for short contracts when restoration work is required. They may be exposed to chemical fumes from substances such as adhesives and solvents, which can be harmful in large quantities. They generally work standard office hours, though evening and weekend work may be required to meet deadlines.
Tools and technologies
Conservators use a range of equipment depending on their area of specialisation and the type of work they are carrying out. Their tools can range from scalpels and fine paintbrushes through to heavy power tools such as bandsaws and drills. They also use a range of adhesives, solvents, paints, dyes and other chemicals to treat artworks, prolonging their life and repairing damage. They may use technologies such as x-rays, infrared photography and microscopes to examine artefacts for signs of damage and deterioration.
How do I become one?
Education and training
To become a conservator you usually need to study a degree in heritage, museums and conservation.
There are no undergraduate courses in heritage, museums and conservation available in Western Australia. The University of Canberra offers the Bachelor of Heritage, Museums and Conservation. Contact the university for more information
Alternatively, you can complete a science, arts, contemporary arts or fine art degree at university with a major that is relevant to cultural materials conservation, followed by postgraduate study in cultural materials conservation or heritage conservation.
Most universities in Western Australia offer relevant undergraduate courses. Contact the universities you are interested in for more information
There are no postgraduate courses in cultural materials or heritage conservation available in Western Australia.
The University of Melbourne offers the Master of Cultural Materials Conservation and the University of Sydney offers the Master of Heritage Conservation. Contact the universities you are interested in for more information.