What is Conservation?
Conservation encompasses all those actions taken toward the long-term preservation of cultural heritage. Activities include examination, documentation, treatment, and preventive care, supported by research and education.
Preserving cultural heritage is essential, but it also presents complex challenges. Conservators embrace these challenges with passion, commitment and dedication.
What is a Conservator?
- Saves our cultural heritage physically. They are unique in the wider preservation field for the particular expert hands-on technical and decision-making skills they bring to preserving and caring for and our tangible history.
- Trains in a graduate conservation program or sometimes a lengthy apprenticeship with more experienced senior colleagues. While they take many paths to becoming a conservator, they all have extensive training in art history, science, studio art, and related fields.
- Specializes in a particular kind of material. Given the increasingly technical nature of modern conservation, they often focus on a specific type of material called their “specialty,” becoming experts in that subject.
- Adheres to a strict ethical practice in their work. They assume certain obligations to cultural heritage, its stewards, the profession, and society as a whole. In much of what they do, they rely on our Code of Ethics as their guide.
- Works in a variety of settings like cultural institutions, research labs, and private practices and has various titles and responsibilities.
- Hears their job called many different things, such as “art restorer” or "art doctor." Conservator is the preferred term in the United States. Professionals in other countries do identify as “art restorers,” but this is often due to differences in language. In French, for example, conservateur actually means curator, and restaurateur means "conservator." "Conservationists" are typically the professionals who focus on environmental conservation.
Conservators make up a large part of the membership of the American Institute for Conservation (AIC), the national membership association for conservation professionals. AIC and the Foundation for Advancement in Conservation (FAIC) play an important role in the field of conservation, working alongside allied organizations.
Learn more about conservation! Find answers to common conservation questions, learn about conservation-specific terminology, and explore conservation in social media.