What is Conservation?
Conservation is a field dedicated to the preservation of tangible cultural heritage and the values they hold. It includes (but is not limited to) fine arts, library and archives, archaeology, fashion, and architecture. This is done through examination, consultation, documentation, research, treatment, preventive conservation, and education. Conservators work closely with allied professionals such as scientists, curators, registrars, exhibition designers, and artists amongst many others.
Conservators are guided by a code of ethics, drafted by the American Institute for Conservation (AIC). AIC is the national professional association for conservation specialists in the United States. It is a membership organization with different levels of participation, including a preprogram student membership.
A great way for pre-program students to stay up to date on available opportunities, be informed on current discussions, and connect with fellow preprogram students is through the Emerging Conservation Professionals Network (ECPN). ECPN has chapters in many cities in the United States and is a great way to network with others on a similar professional path.
Graduate Education in Conservation
While conservation skills used to be gained through apprenticeships, nowadays, a professional career in conservation requires a graduate degree. The North American graduate programs in conservation are allied together through membership in the Association of North American Graduate Programs in Conservation (ANAGPIC). Each program focuses on different areas of study and they have different prerequisites for admissions, although there are some similarities between them. Generally, prerequisites include coursework or experience in studio arts, science (special emphasis on chemistry), and art history; taking the GRE; hands-on experience under the supervision of a trained conservator; and a portfolio to demonstrate your conservation and studio-art work. Please refer to the admission guidelines for each individual program for specific information. The ANAGPIC programs offering graduate education are:
- Buffalo State College (Objects, Paintings, Paper, Photographs, Library-Archives and Books)
- Columbia University (Historic Preservation)
- New York University IFA (Paintings, Objects, Paper, Photographs, Library and Archives, Modern and Contemporary Art, Time-Based Media)
- Queen’s University (Paper and Photographic Materials, Paintings, Objects)
- University of California, Los Angeles/Getty (Archaeological and Ethnographic Materials)
- University of Delaware/Winterthur (Paintings, Paper, Objects, Furniture, Library and Archives, Photographs, Textiles, Preventive Conservation)
- University of Pennsylvania (Historic Preservation)
The following links are a list of resources on more information about conservation, as well as jobs and internship postings:
AIC Guidelines for Pre-Program Internships
Job and Internship Opportunities
- University of Delaware- Department of Art Conservation
- Global Museum
- Federal Jobs and Internship Opportunities
- Higher Education Jobs
- Unique Historic Preservation Jobs
Preparing for Graduate School While Sheltering in Place