- Preserve and restore historical objects, artworks and buildings
- Requires artistic, technological and scientific ability, and a methodical and detailed approach
- With experience, option to progress into management
Conservators look after historical objects or artefacts in a museum or private collection. They use a range of scientific methods, materials and equipment to preserve and restore them. You could be working with paintings, books or furniture in a museum, art gallery or private house, or a property and grounds owned by a charity.
- Preserving objects to stop deterioration
- Checking the condition of objects
- Carrying out restoration, making sure that conditions are right for display and storage
- Keeping written and photographic records
- Working in a team with other conservators
- Giving presentations to visitors including school groups
- Setting up exhibitions and arranging safe transportation
- Giving advice on collections
You could be employed or self-employed. Employers may include art dealers, auction houses or private collectors. If you're self-employed, you'll often manage your own time and the hours you do would depend on how much work you have. You'll usually be based in a workshop, studio or laboratory, or on site. You could be outdoors if you're doing work like restoring stone masonry. You may need to wear appropriate protective clothing and safety equipment.
This role requires artistic, technological and scientific ability, and a methodical and detailed approach.
You'll usually need a degree in conservation, if your degree is in another subject, you'll usually also need a postgraduate qualification in conservation. If you do a different subject at undergraduate level, it may be an advantage to choose your course according to the area of conservation you want to work in, such as fine art, buildings and heritage, archaeology or documents.
You'll find that internships are a useful way to get practical experience after studying. You'll also have an advantage when looking for courses and jobs if you have some relevant work experience. For example with a museum collection or historic site.
You could also apply for a cultural heritage conservator degree apprenticeship if you have the right experience and qualifications, or perhaps a cultural heritage conservation technician higher apprenticeship, followed by further training to qualify as a conservator.
You may be able to move into certain kinds of conservation work if you've got relevant qualifications and experience. For example, building conservation may be suitable if you're a qualified stonemason, plasterer or roofer.
If you want to specialise in conservation of crafts, like stained glass, decorative stonework or metalwork, you're more likely to build up your skills and experience through a work-based route.
With experience you could progress into management, although this will usually mean moving away from 'hands on' practical conservation work. You could also go into teaching or academic research or work as a freelance consultant.