About Conservation

Frequently Asked Questions

What is conservation?

Conservation encompasses actions taken toward the long-term preservation of cultural property. Conservation activities include examination, documentation, treatment, and preventative care, supported by research and education.

How is conservation different from restoration?

Sometimes confusion arises about the terms "restoration" and "conservation." Restoration is actually a type of conservation treatment. It specifically refers to an attempt to bring cultural property closer to its original appearance. The other type of conservation treatment is stabilization, which refers to an attempt to maintain the integrity of cultural property and to only minimize deterioration.

What is a conservator?

Conservators are professionals who work to physically save our cultural property from the ravages of time, the threats of pollution, and the devastation brought by natural disasters. A conservator may be trained at a conservation graduate training program or by lengthy apprenticeship with experienced senior colleagues. Working in museums, other cultural institutions, research labs, and in private practice, conservators combine unique skills gained through ongoing study and advanced training in art history, science, studio art, and related disciplines to care for and preserve our tangible history.

Because of the increasingly technical nature of modern conservation, conservators usually specialize in a particular type of object, such as: paintings, works of art on paper, rare books, photographs, electronic media, textiles, furniture, archaeological and ethnographic materials, sculpture, architectural elements, or decorative arts.

How can I find a conservator?

Please visit our Find a Conservator tool to locate a conservator in your area.

Are there any conservators on staff at the institute that I can ask a general conservation question?

No, there are no trained conservators on staff at the institute. The staff is primarily made up of association/arts non-profit professionals. Your questions are best answered by a trained conservator, which you can find by using our Find a Conservator tool.

I want to restore something myself. Is there anyone I can call for advice?

You may Find a Conservator who offers Consultation or Teaching services, but please be prepared to compensate them for their time.

How much will a conservator charge for his/her services?

The fees charged by conservators vary greatly depending on location, level of education and experience, the difficulty of the project, and the value of the objects being treated. Rates must be established on an individual basis.

How do I know the conservators listed are qualified?

The only conservators listed in Find a Conservator are Professional Associates and Fellows of AIC. The minimum requirements for a Professional Associate are two years of professional conservation experience and an undergraduate degree. The minimum requirements for a Fellow are ten years of professional experience and at least three years of graduate-level education in a conservation-related field. Additionally, applicants to both categories must be approved by a panel of their peers.

How do I become a conservator?

Please visit our Become a Conservator page in the Career Center for information on the steps you can to take to become a conservator.

Do you offer internships at AIC?

AIC is the national membership organization supporting conservation professionals in preserving cultural heritage by establishing and upholding professional standards, promoting research and publications, providing educational opportunities, and fostering the exchange of knowledge among conservators, allied professionals, and the public. As an administrative office for the association, we do not offer any conservation internships or fellowships. We suggest that you search for those opportunities by visiting our Jobs, Internships, and Fellowships page.

Can anyone become a member of AIC? How do I become a member of AIC?

Yes, any indvidual or institution that has an interest in supporting the field of conservation can become an Associate or Institutional member of AIC. You can go to our Member Center to learn more about becoming a member of AIC.

I'm not a U.S. citizen or resident. Can I become a member of AIC?

Yes, any individual that has an interest in supporting the field of conservation can become a member of AIC. AIC has many members from all over the world--from  Seattle to Singapore. You can go to our Member Center to learn more about becoming a member of AIC.

How can I get something appraised?

We recommend that you only solicit appraisals from someone who is a designated appraisal expert. Conservation professionals can identify or provide more information about an object, but they should not appraise it for any monetary value. To find an appraiser, please visit the websites of either the Appraisers Association of America at www.appraisersassoc.org or the American Society of Appraisers at www.appraisers.org.

I need to store something. Where can I find archival storage materials?

Visit our Conservation Vendors and Products page for the latest in conservation products.