Is becoming a museum conservator right for me?

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How to become a Museum Conservator

Becoming a museum conservator requires a combination of education, practical experience, and specialized training. Here's a guide on how to pursue a career as a museum conservator:

  • Educational Background: Start with a strong foundation in a relevant field, such as a Bachelor's Degree in Art History, Archaeology, Chemistry, or a related discipline.
  • Gain Practical Experience: Seek internships or volunteer opportunities at museums, conservation labs, or cultural institutions to gain hands-on experience. This practical experience is crucial for understanding the day-to-day responsibilities of a conservator.
  • Build a Portfolio: Document your experiences, projects, and any conservation work you undertake. A portfolio is valuable when applying for advanced education programs or job opportunities.
  • Pursue Advanced Education: Pursuing advanced degrees is essential to acquire specialized knowledge and skills in the field. The most common and widely recognized advanced degree for museum conservators is a Master's Degree in Conservation. This degree is typically offered in specialized areas such as paintings, objects, textiles, paper, or archaeological materials. Many conservators opt for programs accredited by the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (AIC), which ensures a high standard of education. Some individuals may also pursue related degrees such as Master's in Art History, Archaeology, or Materials Science, depending on their conservation focus.
  • Specialized Programs: Consider enrolling in specialized conservation programs based on the type of objects you are interested in, such as paintings, textiles, paper, or archaeological artifacts.
  • Networking and Professional Involvement: Become a member of professional organizations such as the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (AIC) to connect with other conservators, attend conferences, and stay informed about industry developments. Participate in workshops, conferences, and seminars to stay updated on the latest conservation techniques and research.
  • Develop Specialized Skills: Stay current with advances in conservation by participating in continuing education programs and workshops throughout your career. Look for postgraduate fellowships or entry-level positions at museums, conservation labs, or cultural institutions to gain practical, on-the-job experience. Consider seeking international experience through conservation projects or collaborations to broaden your skills and perspective.
  • Build a Professional Network: Connect with professionals in the field, including conservators, curators, and researchers. Attend industry events, conferences, and seminars to expand your professional network.
  • Stay Informed and Engaged: Stay informed about current research and publications in the field of conservation to remain engaged with evolving practices and methodologies.
  • Job Search and Career Development: Look for job opportunities in museums, galleries, heritage institutions, or private conservation practices. Tailor your application to highlight your education, experience, and skills. Pursue opportunities for career advancement, such as taking on more complex projects, assuming leadership roles, or specializing in a particular conservation niche.

Helpful Resources
Museum conservators can benefit from various resources to stay informed, expand their knowledge, and connect with the broader conservation community. Here are some helpful resources for museum conservators:

  • American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (AIC): AIC is a professional organization for conservators and cultural heritage professionals. Their website offers resources, publications, and information on conferences and events.
  • International Council of Museums (ICOM): ICOM provides a global platform for museum professionals. The organization's publications and events can be valuable for conservators seeking international perspectives.
  • The Getty Conservation Institute: The Getty Conservation Institute offers research, publications, and resources for conservators. Their publications cover a wide range of conservation topics and are available online.
  • National Center for Preservation Technology and Training (NCPTT): NCPTT, a part of the National Park Service, focuses on technology and training for preservation professionals. Their website provides access to research, webinars, and training opportunities.
  • Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative: This initiative by the Smithsonian Institution provides resources and information on emergency preparedness and response for cultural heritage professionals, including conservators.
  • Conservators in Private Practice (CIPP): CIPP is a network for conservators working in private practice. It provides resources, networking opportunities, and a directory of conservators offering private services.
  • Connecting to Collections Care: This online resource offers webinars, courses, and resources on collections care topics, including conservation. It is a project of the Foundation of the American Institute for Conservation.
  • Conservation OnLine (CoOL): CoOL is a comprehensive online resource for conservators, providing access to conservation literature, resources, and discussion forums.
  • Association of North American Graduate Programs in Conservation (ANAGPIC): ANAGPIC represents graduate programs in conservation in North America. Their website offers information on conservation education and graduate programs.
  • National Park Service (NPS) Conserve O Grams: The NPS provides Conserve O Grams, short guides on various conservation topics, which can be a helpful quick reference for conservators.
  • The Conservation Center for Art & Historic Artifacts (CCAHA): CCAHA offers resources, workshops, and publications for conservators, with a focus on art and historic artifacts.