What does an Art Conservator do?

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  • Written By: M.R. Anglin
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
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  • Last Modified Date: 26 June 2019
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Many works of art and artifacts are precious to human history, and many people desire to keep them for future generations. Preserving those pieces can be tricky because the art and artifacts are constantly facing damaging influences, such as rot, deterioration, weather, and faulty conservation methods. An art conservator is a person who examines and restores various pieces of art and artifacts. If he does a proper job, the original intent of the piece should be able to be viewed by many generations to come.

Many art conservators work in museums, though they can also work as consultants and run their own business. Their work typically includes examining pieces to find out what they are made of and how old they are. While examining the works, he can also find out what is wrong with the piece and how best to restore and preserve it. To do this, he may use various chemicals, microscopes, X-rays, and other specialized equipment. Once he has determined the age and materials that make up the piece, he can then move forward in restoring and conserving it.


One of the most important jobs an art conservator can do is to try and restore the original meaning the artist artist was trying to convey. In this way, he is an interpreter of what the artist originally intended when he made the piece as well. For example, an old painting may have buildup on the surface that dulls the color. The art conservator has to decide whether removing the buildup would damage the piece or enhance the original meaning by making the colors brighter. He has to reach a balance between bringing out the original beauty and keeping the painting in one piece for years to come.

An art conservator also has to be familiar with many different disciplines. His work requires him to understand as much as possible about the piece and where it came from. In addition, he has to know each material and how restoring techniques will affect them. The conservator, therefore, may have knowledge of biology, anthropology, chemistry, and archeology. In addition, he may also need to have an artist's touch in order to properly restore art pieces.

Dealing with priceless works of art is a fragile business. As such, an aspiring art conservator typically will undergo years of training before he can conduct business. In order to become an art conservator, one commonly starts with obtaining a graduate degree in art conservation at a well-reputed school. Once he has the degree, a person may have to take part in an internship as well to better learn the trade. An internship will provide the aspiring conservator with the hands-on experience that he will need in the art conservation field.


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