Art Conservator: Job Description & Salary

Art conservators are some of the few lucky people who are permitted to touch the art on display in museums and galleries. In fact, their job requires that they handle the art in order to ensure it is protected for the future. Read further to learn more about this incredible career. Schools offering Museum Studies degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Overview

Art conservators are conservators who specialize in the protection of visual art. Art conservators may specialize in different materials and different forms of art. The chart below shows the education requirements, job duties, and salary of art conservators.

Degree Required Master's degree
Key Responsibilities Stabilize art in the material they specialize in, protect art from future damage
Job Growth (2016-2026) 13% (all archivists, curators, and museum workers)*
Median Salary (May 2018) $43,020 (museum technicians and conservators)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Are the Job Duties of an Art Conservator?

Art conservators are responsible for ensuring that art of any age will survive to be enjoyed by future generations. A large part of their duties involves the physical stabilization of works of art through various treatments. Art conservators must also document everything they have done to a work of art in case it needs to be removed or redone in the future. Additionally, art conservators who manage a department must also assign tasks, oversee the work of others, and complete the other tasks typical of a manager.

What Are the Educational Requirements of an Art Conservator?

Art conservators are expected to have a master's degree. Master's degree programs tend to last between two and four years. During these programs art restorers will learn the skills necessary to preserve and protect art as an art conservator.

Where Do Art Conservators Work?

Art conservators are primarily employed by museums, art galleries, and other institutions responsible for the housing of art. Where one works depends largely on the material one specializes in. One who works with textiles may find work restoring tapestries owned by a museum while one who specializes in paintings may work for a gallery.

What Personal Traits Do Art Restorers Need to Have?

To work effectively as an art conservator one needs to have exceptional judgement. Decisions made by art conservators determine if the art is around to be enjoyed at all years or centuries into the future. If an art conservator makes the wrong decision they could damage a piece irreparably or accelerate the rate of decay. Also, an art conservator must have a keen eye. Missed damage may be a source of future damage. Additionally, art conservators must have a steady hand. Rough handling will spell the end for many works of art, such as blown glass, and art conservators, as people who frequently handle art, need to be extremely careful. The slightest slip could destroy a piece.

What Are Some Similar Careers?

Similar careers to art conservator include curator and archivist. Curators are responsible for the management of entire collections, including but not limited to entire museums. Collections overseen by a curator may include scientific specimens, historical artifacts, or works of art. Archivists are responsible for ensuring important documents are accessible, searchable, and preserved for the future. To ensure that documents are preserved for the future archivists will create microfilm and digital copies in case the paper original is destroyed.

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