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An art conservator is an individual who repairs and stabilizes works of art. These individuals may participate in art conservation programs such as a masters degree course or through a trade school. Another approach to learning art conservation is to participate as an apprentice with a master conservator.
The practice of art conservation includes the practice of conserving as well as repairing works of art. This art may be anything from paintings and books to chairs and statues. Art conservators must be careful to protect and repair existing works of art safely, without causing any damage and protecting the historical integrity of the piece. These trained professionals are important to preserving historical works of art, as well as objects that have a more personal, family significance. In order to become a competent art conservator, participation in one of the many types of art conservation programs may be required.
One way to participate in art conservation programs is to go to a graduate school specifically for training in art conservation. There are also a number of universities, both in the United States and abroad, that have masters degree programs in art conservation. Typically these programs are multi-disciplinary, giving a basic overview of how to conserve many different types of objects, as well as providing a background in the theory and science of art conservation. After spending some time studying different types of conservation, students will generally specialize in the conservation of one type of object. Students who go into these programs generally have backgrounds in art, science, or history.
Students who do not want to take such an academic route to participating in art conservation programs have options as well. Specialized trade schools are available to train some types of art conservators. For example, some cabinetry and carpentry programs also include repair and conservation methods in their training. Learning a traditional trade or craft often provides one with the skills to perform conservation tasks, for example learning traditional bookbinding can prepare someone to repair books, and learning how to make musical instruments can prepare someone to conserve them.
The most traditional of the different types of art conservation programs is the master and apprentice teaching method. Someone with an interest in the field will find an individual practicing conservation and become employed as their assistant. In this position, the individual receives one on one instruction from a master conservator. This method often takes a very long time, but when the apprentice has completed his or her service he or she is usually considered a master art conservator.
If you are interested in art conservation you should visit the American Institute for Conservation (AIC) website, where you can learn more about this field (from those who actually work in it) and learn the best pathways of training and education needed to become a conservator of art.