Museum Conservator

Bring paintings, pottery, and other museum pieces back to their old glory.

Quick Stats


Outlook
Good

Salary Range
$24,000 – $68,000

Data from U.S. Department of Labor


What do Museum Conservators do?

A Museum Conservator prevents and repairs the physical and chemical decay of valuable relics. Never mind that they’re inanimate, these objects age, just like people do. And when they do, skeletons fracture, papers disintegrate, paintings fade, jewelry tarnishes, and pottery crumbles.

Unfortunately, when relics perish, a piece of history dies alongside them. Because they don’t want that to happen, museums, libraries, and historical societies hire Museum Conservators.

As a Museum Conservator, you maintain and restore objects in your employer’s collection. A fountain of youth for historic and scientific artifacts — including art, fossils, furniture, tools, weapons, textiles, books, documents, and currency, just to name a few — you typically begin the conservation and restoration process by determining an object’s age and condition. That requires doing historical, scientific, and archaeological research using X-rays, chemical tests, and microscopes.

Once you know what you’re up against, you then begin the process of caring for, restoring, and protecting objects. Usually, that means cleaning them, using gentle cleansers and delicate tools to avoid further damaging them. You also use sealants and hardeners to prevent breakage and decay, particularly when you’re working with paper, wood, or clay.

In addition, you repair damaged surfaces and split pieces, and reassemble objects with broken or missing components. And on top of that, you determine what display and storage conditions — optimal mounting, lighting, temperature, and humidity — will be most conducive to the object’s preservation.

Straddling the worlds of art, history, science, and anthropology, you’re at once a puzzler who solves riddles and a Carpenter who rebuilds treasures — kind of like Bob Villa, only your show isn’t “This Old House”; it’s “This Old Artifact”!


Should I be a Museum Conservator?

You should have a master's degree or higher and share these traits:
  • Independent: You enjoy flying solo and doing things your own way.
  • Trustworthy: You are known for your personal integrity and honesty.
  • Reliable: You can always be counted on to do a good job.

  • Also known as: Ethnographic Materials Conservator, Museum Preparator

    How to become a Museum Conservator

    Most Museum Conservators have a Master's degree. Start by getting your Bachelor's degree. Chart?chd=s:awao9b&chl=|certificate+%2818%25%29||bachelor%27s+%2832%25%29|master%27s+%2849%25%29|doctorate+%281%25%29&cht=p3&chs=466x180&chxr=0,0,49
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