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What are the Different Careers in Antique Conservation?

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  • Written By: Jennifer Voight
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 03 December 2016
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Individuals who work in the antique conservation field may hold a variety of different job titles. Some, like antique restorers, furniture designers, and furniture restorers, work solely with antique furniture, while others also conserve and restore works of art, historic artifacts, or documents in addition to antique conservation. Some people in related professions, like academia, work in antique preservation as a subset of or in addition to their regular job. The range of jobs in antique preservation reaches from self-taught furniture restorers to professionals holding PhDs in chemistry or fine arts. A true antique conservator is someone interested in maintaining the present condition of an antique, even if it is less than optimal, and preventing further deterioration. Yet often conservators also do work in restoration and repair on an individual basis.

Although most people think of furniture when they define the word antique, an antique may be any old collectible object valued for its beauty, craftsmanship, or emotional value. Since the definition of antique varies widely, individuals who work in the field of antique conservation may restore old automobiles or boats, repair and clean antique toys, or repair and restore appliances from earlier eras in history.

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Antique furniture restorers and conservators may work for antique malls, auction houses, or universities. An antique conservator may hold an advanced degree in science, chemistry, or art history if the individual does work on extremely rare or valuable antiques. An antique furniture restorer may have skills in re-upholstery, woodworking, and refinishing. Some antique conservation professionals may have skills in creating environments with special conditions for objects on display. For best preservation, optimal levels of humidity, temperature, and light must be strictly maintained. A skilled antique conservationist will have knowledge of chemical principles necessary to maintain those conditions.

Some antique conservation professionals clean and preserve antique paintings or historical documents. If the item is to be on display, the document must be specially framed using acid-free materials that will not react with chemicals in the artwork. Some jobs in antique conservation of artwork involve not only conserving artworks, but also restoration and repainting damaged areas of canvas. These individuals need fine arts skills in addition to knowledge of chemistry to restore these items to their original condition. Art conservationists may work for universities, museums, or art galleries.

An antique conservation professional may work as a college professor, art appraiser, or furniture designer and do antique conservation when needed as part of his or her larger job. Some may teach courses in antique conservation at the university level for others wanting to enter the career field. Art appraisers may do antique conservation or restoration as a consultant to art dealers or investors.

Antique cars may require a great deal of conservation effort, restoration, and repair in order to help them retain their value. Antique automobile restoration mechanics have thorough knowledge of auto mechanics and technical skills, as well as knowledge of historical cars. Often, an antique automobile or motorcycle may need to be completely or partially rebuilt using replacement parts. This requires a great deal of technical knowledge of cars of a variety of eras.

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