Training to become a conservator

The conservation of our cultural heritage can be a rewarding career. It links arts, science, history and craft. A conservators' work is no longer centred entirely on practical treatments. Typically involvement with exhibitions, conservation science, preventive conservation, project management and advocacy work are all part of the modern conservators’ remit.

Today the professional conservator combines different traditions and disciplines with a strong ethical base. He/she depends on intelligent, reflective practice and professional judgement.

Training should include both technical and scientific knowledge of materials and the deterioration processes. This allows students to develop appropriate aesthetic and perceptual abilities. These skills will be key to assessment and decision making as a trained professional in the field.

There are a variety of training and entry routes to becoming a conservator:

  1. A substantial period of experience backed by practical training and continued professional development, known as CPD.
  2. A directly relevant degree followed by further experience.
  3. A less relevant first degree or period of practical training, followed by a full-or part-time postgraduate qualification and further experience.

Conservators usually specialise in a particular material or group of objects such as archaeology, art on paper, books, decorative arts, ethnographic materials, paintings, photographs, sculpture or textiles. Normal colour vision and good manual dexterity is normally required.

There are no conservation training courses at degree level currently available in Ireland.

We have compiled a list of conservation courses taught in English in Europe.

ICRI offers education bursaries to students attending full-time conservation courses.