A conservationist preserves and handles historical artifacts to ensure their condition is not altered and is maintained to its original state as much as possible. They usually work behind the scenes and collaborate closely with a curator. A conservationist restores and appraises objects that may be acquired by their employer. They are responsible for the assembly, storage, and research of a collection of exhibits. They record, identify, and/or install pieces for showcasing.
How to Become a Historical Conservationist
Conservationists usually hold a master’s degree in conservation. You usually obtain on-the-job training with several years of work experience before earning the title of conservationist. Many earn this through volunteer programs or working as an technical assistant after earning a bachelor’s degree. Earning a master’s degree in conservation can take anywhere from 2-4 years and includes both theory and the practice of conservation.
According to O*NET OnLine, over 40% hold a master’s degree while over 20% hold a bachelor’s degree. Conservationists may also gain additional education to specialize in particular areas of study such as paintings, sculptures, written items, furniture, or many other historical types of artifacts.
Job Description of a Historical Conservationist
A historical conservationist conducts examinations and tests on artifacts to establish requirements for storage and conservation. They handle and clean objects such as rock, paper, pottery, wood, steel, and other items. Conservationists are knowledgable in the requirements, policies, and procedures to preserve artifacts for the museum or facility they work in.
A historical conservationist should possess skills and knowledge in chemistry, fine arts, history and archeology. In addition they should know how to use computers and electronics like circuit boards, hardware, and software processors. A mechanical knowledge of tools or machines are used as well for repairs, maintenance, and the examination of artifacts. Conservationists usually work behind the scenes under a curator or museum manager. They may work directly as staff in art museums or may only provide services to museums, galleries, and individuals as a freelancer.
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Archivists, Curators, and Museum Workers.
National Center for O*NET Development. 25-4013.00. O*NET OnLine.