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A conservator is a professional who works on the conservation of objects. Their work involves determining the structural stability of an object, addressing problems of chemical and physical deterioration, and performing corrective treatment based on an evaluation of the aesthetic, historic, and scientific characteristics of the object. All applied work methods must be gentle, reversible, and be traceable. Preventive conservation allows the creation of environmental conditions that can prevent damage to the object of art. To control the indoor climate (temperature, humidity and light irradiation) for preservation of works of art, the observation of these conditions is essential during their transportation, as well as during and after preservation or restoration. Conservation professionals bring practical experience, a broad range of theoretical and scientific knowledge, and a commitment to high standards and performance to bear on their work.
Conservators are usually trained at a conservation graduate training program. In the formative years of the profession, a lengthy apprenticeship with experienced senior colleagues was the norm, but this practice has been in decline as the field has developed.
Because of the increasingly technical nature of modern conservation, conservators usually specialize in a particular type of object, such as: paintings, works on paper, textiles, sculpture, furniture, rare books, photographs, or archaeological, decorative, or ethnographic materials. Conservators tend to work in private practice or for a museum, library, historical society, or similar institution.
Several professional organizations[clarification needed] for conservators exist to promote standards of practice and professional development.
- American Institute for the Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works
- European Confederation of Conservator-Restorers' Organisations
- Canadian Association for Conservation
- The Institute for Conservation (United Kingdom)
- International Council of Museums Conservation Committee
- International Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works
- International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM)
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