Job description

Conservators are the people that preserve and sometimes restore cultural collections. They have to be expert at understanding why and how artefacts deteriorate, as well as knowing how to give them a new lease of life.

Because everything that is collectable may need conserving at some point, conservators tend to specialise in, for example, furniture, fine art, archaeology, textiles, paper or machinery. Conservation departments in museums have been severely cut back over the last decade and there are fewer conservators on the museum payroll now.

Most conservators work either as self-employed freelances or within private studios and contract out their services. The UK Institute for Conservation runs an accreditation scheme for freelance conservators. Website:

Most national museums still have relatively large, specialist conservation departments. A recent advertisement on Find a job by a London-based national museum called for a furniture conservator with particular experience in wood marquetry, gilt-bronze and marble. It offered a salary of £15,000-£18,000 pa.

Most conservators are graduates, and a post-graduate conservation training is vital if you don't have a first degree in conservation. A level chemistry is also useful.

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