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Occupation Details

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Conservator - Museum / Art Gallery

Job Zone

Education
Most of these occupations require qualifications at NFQ Levels 7 or 8 (Ordinary / Honours Degrees) but some do not.

Related Experience
A considerable amount of work-related skill, knowledge, or experience is needed for these occupations. For example, an engineer must complete four years of college and work for several years in engineering to be considered qualified.

Job Training
Employees in these occupations usually need several years of work-related experience, on-the-job training, and/or vocational training.

Job Zone Examples
Many of these occupations involve coordinating, supervising, managing, or training others. Examples include accountants, sales managers, computer programmers, teachers, chemists, environmental engineers, criminal investigators, and financial analysts.

€25k >  
Museum/Art Gallery Conservator
Salary Range
(thousands per year)*
€25 -  
Related Information:
Data Source(s):
FAS

Last Updated: March, 2013

* The lower figures typically reflect starting salaries. Higher salaries are awarded to those with greater experience and responsibility. Positions in Dublin sometimes command higher salaries.
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At a Glance... header image

Preserves objects to protect them from decay, usually specialising in a particular material or group of objects such as textiles, furniture or paintings.


The Work header image

Conservators work to preserve artistic and cultural objects and to preserve and protect artefacts from decay by applying scientific methods.

They use their knowledge of the physical and chemical properties of objects and storage materials to control the environment in which artefacts are stored, displayed and transported. They conserve artefacts that are deteriorating.

Some conservators work with a wide range of objects. Others specialise in archaeology; ceramics and glass; furniture and wood; gilding and decorative surfaces; historic interiors; metals; paintings; paper and books; photographic materials; stained glass; stone and wall paintings; textiles. Conservators also manage laboratories and do research projects.

Senior conservation work needs specialist qualifications with a major science element.They usually specialise in a particular material or group of objects such as architecture, archaeology, art on paper, books, decorative arts, natural science or ethnographic materials, paintings, photographs, sculpture or textiles.

The Conservators will analyse and assess the condition of an item, and try to understand the processes and evidence of deterioration. They may be involved in planning the care of a collection, or site management strategies to prevent damage.  They may carry out conservation treatments, and conduct research.

Conservation work is both art and science. It is an interdisciplinary field involving practical studio work, science, and the humanities. 

Conservators check that objects are genuine and put a date to them. They then combine craft techniques and scientific principles to treat the object. Treatments are reversible where possible, as new methods may replace previous work. So it is vital that the conservator keeps detailed records of what they do during the conservation process.  
 
Conservators also monitor and control the conditions in which objects are kept. To do this, they use their knowledge of physical and chemical properties of objects, and their reaction to light, temperature and humidity. They advise other museum staff on the correct handling and storing of objects. Senior conservators research new materials and methods. They also supervise junior conservators.

A Conservator’s responsibilities include:

  • Examination to determine the materials, the method of manufacture, the properties or structures of objects, and the causes and extent of deterioration or alteration
  • Scientific analysis and research to identify historic and artistic methods and materials of fabrication, and to evaluate the efficacy and appropriateness of materials and procedures of conservation
  • Documentation procedures to record the condition of an object or site at a specific time, or before, during, and after treatment, and to outline treatment methods and materials in detail
  • Carrying out treatment, including intervention procedures, as well as passive measures to stabilise an artifact or retard its deterioration
  • Restoration procedures to bring a deteriorated or damaged object or structure closer to a previous or assumed appearance or function
  • Advising on procedures for the safe exhibition and travel of cultural materials
 


Tasks & Activitiesheader image

The following is a list of the most commonly reported tasks and activities for this occupation

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Clean objects, such as paper, textiles, wood, metal, glass, rock, pottery, and furniture, using cleansers, solvents, soap solutions, and polishes.

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Determine whether objects need repair and choose the safest and most effective method of repair.

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Install, arrange, assemble, and prepare artifacts for exhibition, ensuring the artifacts' safety, reporting their status and condition, and identifying and correcting any problems with the set-up.

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Direct and supervise curatorial, technical, and student staff in the handling, mounting, care, and storage of art objects.

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Perform tests and examinations to establish storage and conservation requirements, policies, and procedures.

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Prepare artifacts for storage and shipping.

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Photograph objects for documentation.

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Coordinate exhibit installations, assisting with design, constructing displays, dioramas, display cases, and models, and ensuring the availability of necessary materials.

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Notify superior when restoration of artifacts requires outside experts.

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Lead tours and teach educational courses to students and the general public.

Work Activities header image

The following is a list of the most commonly reported work activities in this occupation.

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Handling and Moving Objects:  Using hands and arms in handling, installing, positioning, and moving materials, and manipulating things.

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Thinking Creatively:  Developing, designing, or creating new applications, ideas, relationships, systems, or products, including artistic contributions.

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Organizing, Planning, and Prioritizing Work:  Developing specific goals and plans to prioritize, organize, and accomplish your work.

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Identifying Objects, Actions, and Events:  Identifying information by categorizing, estimating, recognizing differences or similarities, and detecting changes in circumstances or events.

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Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates:  Providing information to supervisors, co-workers, and subordinates by telephone, in written form, e-mail, or in person.

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Updating and Using Relevant Knowledge:  Keeping up-to-date technically and applying new knowledge to your job.

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Monitor Processes, Materials, or Surroundings:  Monitoring and reviewing information from materials, events, or the environment, to detect or assess problems.

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Judging the Qualities of Things, Services, or People:  Assessing the value, importance, or quality of things or people.

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Documenting/Recording Information:  Entering, transcribing, recording, storing, or maintaining information in written or electronic/magnetic form.

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Establishing and Maintaining Interpersonal Relationships:  Developing constructive and cooperative working relationships with others, and maintaining them over time.


Knowledge header image

The following is a list of the five most commonly reported knowledge areas for this occupation.

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English Language:  Knowledge of the structure and content of the English language including the meaning and spelling of words, rules of composition, and grammar.

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Chemistry:  Knowledge of the chemical composition, structure, and properties of substances and of the chemical processes and transformations that they undergo. This includes uses of chemicals and their interactions, danger signs, production techniques, and disposal methods.

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Fine Arts:  Knowledge of the theory and techniques required to compose, produce, and perform works of music, dance, visual arts, drama, and sculpture.

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History and Archeology:  Knowledge of historical events and their causes, indicators, and effects on civilizations and cultures.

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Administration and Management:  Knowledge of business and management principles involved in strategic planning, resource allocation, human resources modeling, leadership technique, production methods, and coordination of people and resources.


Skillsheader image

The following is a list of the most commonly reported skills used in this occupation.

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Writing:   Communicating effectively in writing as appropriate for the needs of the audience.

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Reading Comprehension:   Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work related documents.

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Active Listening:   Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.

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Monitoring:   Monitoring/Assessing performance of yourself, other individuals, or organizations to make improvements or take corrective action.

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Speaking:   Talking to others to convey information effectively.

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Critical Thinking:   Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.

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Judgment and Decision Making:   Considering the relative costs and benefits of potential actions to choose the most appropriate one.

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Complex Problem Solving:   Identifying complex problems and reviewing related information to develop and evaluate options and implement solutions.

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Social Perceptiveness:   Being aware of others' reactions and understanding why they react as they do.

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Active Learning:   Understanding the implications of new information for both current and future problem-solving and decision-making.

Personal Qualitiesheader image

Conservators require an extensive knowledge of conservation practice, and specialism in all aspects of archival collections.

Excellent practical skills and an informed approach to the delivery of conservation treatments and current conservation standards is also required.

Conservators may also be actively engaged in data collection, knowledge sharing, teaching and mentoring others, as well as planning, and organising. 

Your colour vision may also be tested.


Entry Routesheader image

Accepted entry routes for Conservators include:

1. A substantial period of experience backed by practical training and Continued Professional Development (CPD).

2. A directly relevant degree followed by years of relevant experience

3. A less relevant first degree or period of practical training, followed by a full-or part-time postgraduate qualification and further experience.

Undergraduate or post-graduate degree areas include: History; Art history; Fine art; Science; Archaeology. This may be followed by specialist training in Conservation.

Most conservation courses ask for some experience before applying, so many people also volunteer in museums/galleries/libraries for a short-time too. PhD level research can also be undertaken.

The training options differ depending on country and specialism. There are no training courses in Ireland, so potential future conservators must train abroad, generally in the UK. A list of training courses in the UK is available [Click here].

Details of International conservation training can be obtained at the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation & Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM)

Emerging professionals in conservation’, as new graduates may be called, may undertake an internship lasting from a few months to two years. Such opportunities are occasionally offered by cultural institutions worldwide. There is often a need to travel for work positions, and a second language can be beneficial in this regard.

Last Updated: November, 2014


Related Occupationsheader image

Contactsheader image

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Organisation: Irish Museums Association
  Address: 11, Parnell Square East, Dublin, 1
  Tel: (01) 873 4216
  Email: Click here
  Url Click here

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Organisation: Institute of Conservators-Restorers Ireland (ICRI)
  Address: The Greenhouse, 17 St. Andrew Street, Dublin 2
  Tel:
  Email: Click here
  Url Click here

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Organisation: National Gallery of Ireland
  Address: Merrion Square West, Dublin 2
  Tel: (01) 661 5133
  Email: Click here
  Url Click here

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Organisation: The Institute of Conservation (ICON)
  Address: 1.5 Lafone House The Leathermarket Weston Street London SE1 3ER
  Tel: 00 353 20 3142 6789
  Email: Click here
  Url Click here

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Organisation: National Library of Ireland
  Address: Kildare Street, Dublin 2
  Tel: (01) 603 0200
  Email: Click here
  Url Click here

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Organisation: The Heritage Council
  Address: Church Lane, Kilkenny
  Tel: (056) 777 0777
  Email: Click here
  Url Click here

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Organisation: National Gallery of Ireland
  Address: Merrion Square West, Dublin 2
  Tel: (01) 661 5133
  Email: Click here
  Url Click here

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Organisation: National Museum of Ireland
  Address: Kildare Street, Dublin 2
  Tel: (01) 677 7444
  Email: Click here
  Url Click here

 

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Career Guidance

This occupation is popular with people who have the following Career Interests...


...and for people who like working in the following Career Sectors:

Art, Craft & Design
Classic Arts, Languages and Culture

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