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Conservators - Overview

Museum technicians and conservators care for and preserve artifacts and works of art. They document their work.

Museum technicians and Conservators decide how to restore objects such as paintings. Conservators treat and care for old or valuable objects. Museum technicians assist them with many of their duties.

Conservators manage and care for art pieces and historical artifacts. Artifacts are objects, such as tools or weapons, made by humans long ago. Some conservators work with specimens. These might include coins, stamps, or even preserved plants and animals. Many conservators specialize in a specific area, such as:

  • Textiles
  • Metals
  • Paintings

A large part of their job is to prepare objects for display. Conservators arrange and assemble items, and install them in an exhibit for the public to see. They carefully monitor the process to make sure the items are safely displayed.

Conservators conduct historical, scientific, or archaeological research. They may use x-rays and special lights to examine objects. They use chemical tests, microscopes, and other lab equipment to determine the age and condition of the objects they study. They must decide if these objects need treatment or restoration, and the best method to preserve them. They document their findings.

Conservators also restore and treat objects to prevent them from decaying or breaking. For example, they clean paintings, or items made of paper, wood, metal, glass, or clay. They preserve them with sealants and hardeners. Conservators repair the surfaces of artifacts and reassemble broken parts. They may build mounts for fossils, or construct replicas (copies) of artifacts. They recommend climate control measures to help preserve the objects. Factors such as too much heat, humidity, or light can damage art and other valuable objects.

Conservators may need to consult outside experts. They may also estimate the cost for restoration work. In addition, conservators may direct the work of technical staff in handling, mounting, and storing objects.

Museum technicians assist conservators by performing a variety of the above tasks. They prepare, maintain, and organize objects or materials. They may also assist with research.

Source: Illinois Career Information System (CIS) brought to you by Illinois Department of Employment Security.