About Conservation

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.

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.

Note that other countries may use the term "restorer" in place of "conservator." For example, the French word for curator is conservateur, and a conservator may be called a restaurateur

(See more in our Frequently Asked Questions page)

Conservation of historic and artistic works

Every day, the vision of artists, the identity of peoples, and the very existence of history all threaten to disappear. Left alone, old buildings will crumble. The Declaration of Independence will disintegrate. The photographed faces of battle-weary Civil War soldiers will fade away... 

Preserving this cultural material is of paramount importance, but it still presents complex challenges to our society. Conservation professionals are those who embrace these challenges with passion, commitment and dedication. By melding art with science, conservation professionals protect our heritage, preserve our legacy, and ultimately, save our treasures for generations to come.

Future generations should not be deprived of knowing and understanding their history, because priceless artifacts were allowed to fall into disrepair.

How We Can Help You

Find useful information on conservation here. From guides on how to care for your treasures to guidelines on how to select a conservator and answers to many more questions you may have about conservation.

Visit the Care for Your Treasures page to access a series of guides designed to help you preserve objects in your personal collection.

How You Can Help Us

Our past is under attack. Hundreds of millions of artifacts and historic structures are in need of conservation. Yet in these tough economic times, federal, state, and local budgets for collecting and cultural institutions facing cuts.

Advocate for ConservationContact your elected officials and help elected officials understand the long-term value of protecting our cultural heritage.

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