How To Become An Art Conservator (Reasons, Skills, FAQs)

How To Become An Art Conservator

Art conservation is a fascinating field that blends artistry with scientific expertise, offering a unique opportunity to preserve and restore our cultural heritage. 

Art conservators play a vital role in safeguarding artworks, ensuring their longevity, and maintaining their aesthetic appeal. 

This article will guide you through the essential steps and skills required to pursue a career in art conservation, enabling you to contribute to preserving our artistic legacy.

Who is an Art Conservator?

An art conservator is a highly skilled professional specializing in preserving, restoring, and conserving artworks. 

Their primary goal is to ensure the longevity and integrity of artworks, ranging from paintings and sculptures to textiles and historical artifacts. 

Art conservators possess a deep understanding of materials, techniques, and art history, allowing them to assess the condition of artworks, identify deterioration or damage, and develop appropriate conservation strategies. 

Duties of an Art Conservator

Here are some key tasks and responsibilities of an art conservator:

1. Examination and Documentation

Art conservators thoroughly examine artworks using visual inspection, microscopy, and scientific analysis techniques. 

They document the artwork’s condition, identifying any damage, deterioration, or alterations.

2. Cleaning and Surface Treatment

Conservators use specialized techniques and materials to clean and remove dirt, grime, varnish, or other surface contaminants that may have accumulated over time. 

They ensure the cleaning process does not damage the artwork.

3. Structural Repairs

If an artwork has structural issues, such as tears, cracks, or detachment of paint layers, conservators employ appropriate methods to repair and stabilize the artwork. 

This may involve techniques like adhesive bonding, retouching, or reinforcement.

4. Conservation Treatments

Art conservators employ various techniques to address specific conservation issues. 

These treatments may include stabilizing flaking paint, removing or reducing discolored varnish, or addressing paint loss.

5. Environmental Monitoring

Conservators monitor and control environmental factors such as temperature, humidity, and light levels in display areas or storage facilities. 

This helps prevent deterioration caused by unfavorable conditions.

6. Research and Analysis

Conservators research to understand artworks’ materials, techniques, and historical context. 

They utilize scientific analysis, archival research, and collaboration with experts to enhance their understanding of the artwork’s creation and deterioration processes.

7. Preventive Conservation

Art conservators advise on proper handling, storage, and display techniques to prevent artwork damage. 

They may recommend protective measures such as UV-filtering glazing, proper framing, and suitable mounting systems.

8. Collaboration and Documentation

Conservators collaborate with other professionals, such as curators, historians, and scientists, to develop comprehensive conservation strategies. 

They also maintain detailed records of their examinations, treatments, and any changes made to the artwork.

How To Become An Art Conservator

Being well-versed in the physical sciences is essential, especially knowledge of how various materials perform in a variety of conditions.

Since art conservation is so specialized, it’s difficult to obtain work in the sector without a graduate degree.

Most art conservators earn a bachelor’s degree in either art or chemistry and then specialize in the conservation of works of art.

If you want to improve your chances of getting into elite master’s level art conservation programs, combining these subjects into a double major is a great idea.

Why Should Arts be Conserved?

Here are several reasons why art should be conserved:

1. Historical Significance

Art provides valuable insights into the past, reflecting different periods’ history, culture, and societal values. 

By conserving art, we ensure that future generations can learn from and appreciate these historical artifacts, fostering a deeper understanding of our collective heritage.

2. Cultural Identity

Art is an integral part of a society’s cultural identity. It reflects a community or nation’s unique expressions, traditions, and beliefs. 

By conserving art, we preserve our cultural heritage and maintain a connection to our roots, promoting cultural diversity and enriching our understanding of different civilizations.

3. Artistic Mastery

Many artworks represent extraordinary technical skill, creativity, and innovation. 

By conserving these masterpieces, we honor artists’ achievements throughout history and enable future artists to study and draw inspiration from their techniques and artistic vision.

4. Educational Value

Art offers educational opportunities in various disciplines, including art history, science, and materials analysis. 

By conserving artworks, we ensure that researchers, scholars, and students have access to primary sources for study and analysis, contributing to advancements in knowledge and understanding.

5. Aesthetic Appreciation

Art can inspire, evoke emotions, and provide aesthetic pleasure. 

Conserving art allows future generations to experience the beauty and emotional impact of these creations, contributing to enriching their lives.

6. Economic Impact

Art and cultural heritage contribute to tourism, attracting visitors from around the world. 

Preserving and showcasing art can stimulate local economies, create cultural sector jobs, and generate revenue through cultural tourism and related industries.

The economic value cannot be overemplazied when it comes to being a celebrity.

Requirements to be an Art Conservator

To become an art conservator, several requirements aspiring individuals must fulfill. 

1. Education

Obtaining an advanced art conservation degree is crucial in this field. 

Most art conservators complete a master’s degree in art conservation, which provides specialized training and knowledge. 

Pursuing a degree in art or a technical field like chemistry is beneficial at the undergraduate level.

A double major combining these fields can increase your chances of acceptance into prestigious art conservation programs.

2. Specialized Knowledge

A comprehensive understanding of physical sciences is essential for art conservators. 

Knowing how different materials function and behave in various environments is crucial for preserving and restoring artworks. 

Organic chemistry and trigonometry courses are typically required for admission into master’s level art conservation programs.

3. Hands-on Experience

Gaining hands-on experience is vital to becoming an art conservator. 

Seek volunteer or part-time work in museums, archives, or conservation labs to work alongside your studies. 

This practical experience provides valuable skills and helps you make industry connections and determine your preferred work environment.

4. Apprenticeships

Many art conservation programs include apprenticeships as part of the curriculum. 

Apprenticeships allow aspiring conservators to work under the guidance of experienced professionals, gaining practical training and expertise. 

Apprenticeships typically involve working on projects ranging from 400 to 4,000 hours, depending on the program.

Skills to be an Art Conservator

To excel as an art conservator, several essential skills are required to handle the delicate task of preserving artworks. 

1. Fine Motor Skills

Art conservators perform delicate manual tasks, such as cleaning, repairing, and retouching artworks. Hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills are essential to ensure accurate and meticulous work.

2. Attention to Detail

Art conservators must possess an exceptional eye for detail to identify subtle changes, damages, or alterations in artworks. 

Their ability to spot even the most minute flaws is crucial in developing appropriate conservation strategies.

3. Analytical Thinking

Art conservators need to approach conservation challenges analytically. 

They must: 

  • Assess the condition of an artwork, 
  • Identify potential causes of deterioration, and 
  • Develop effective conservation treatments based on scientific and historical evidence.

4. Patience and Perseverance

Conservation projects can be time-consuming and require patience. 

Art conservators must work meticulously and be willing to invest the necessary time and effort to ensure the best possible outcomes.

5. Communication Skills

Art conservators collaborate with artists, curators, and other professionals, making effective communication crucial. 

They must be able to explain conservation processes, present findings, and provide recommendations clearly and concisely.

6. Ethics and Professionalism

Art conservators adhere to a strict code of ethics to preserve the authenticity and integrity of artworks. 

They must demonstrate professionalism, integrity, and respect for cultural heritage while maintaining confidentiality.

7. Continuous Learning

The field of art conservation is constantly evolving, with new research, technologies, and techniques emerging. 

Art conservators must be committed to lifelong learning, staying updated with the latest advancements and best practices.

FAQs on How To Become An Art Conservator

Where does an art conservator work?

An art conservator can work in various settings, including museums, galleries, conservation studios, research institutions, and private practices.

How long does it take to be an art conservator?

The path to becoming an art conservator can take several years. Typically, it involves completing a bachelor’s degree in a related field, such as art history or chemistry, followed by a specialized master’s degree in art conservation. Depending on the program and individual circumstances, this process can take 5 to 7 years.

What degree do you need to be an art conservator?

To become an art conservator, a master’s degree in art conservation is generally required. While an undergraduate degree in fine arts, art history, anthropology, chemistry, or archaeology can provide a solid foundation, more is needed to become an art conservator. Most art conservation programs require candidates to have a master’s degree in art conservation or a related field.

How much does an art conservator make?

Art conservators earn an above-average salary, with an average annual income of $44,880 or approximately $22 per hour. On the lower end of the salary scale, art conservators may earn around $31,060 or $15 per hour, particularly when starting out in the field or based on the state in which they reside.


Becoming an art conservator requires dedication, perseverance, and a strong foundation in art and science. 

Formal education in art conservation, such as a master’s degree, is essential for gaining knowledge and practical experience. 

Additionally, internships and apprenticeships with experienced conservators are invaluable for honing your craft.

By honing your skills, collaborating with experts, and nurturing your passion, you can safeguard priceless masterpieces and contribute to preserving our collective artistic heritage. 

Awesome one; I hope this article answers your question.

Editor’s Recommendations:

If you find this article good, please share it with a friend.

You May Also Like