Conservators plan, organize and undertake the preservation and conservation of materials and objects in private and public collections, including libraries, archives, museums, art galleries, and historical and archaeological sites.
Conservators examine and evaluate the condition of objects and possibly confirm their identification and authenticity. They organise systematic inspections of collections and prepare written and photographic reports. They advise on the optimum storage and display conditions (e.g. correct light, relative humidity, integrated pest management and temperature control) for the objects in their care.
Conservators also advise on the correct methods for handling, storing, displaying and transporting works of art and artefacts. They conduct research into the material or technological nature of collections and of materials and techniques critical to their preservation or conservation. They undertake extensive research into deterioration problems within collections and undertake conservation and restoration procedures to correct damage or control deterioration and record details of the measures taken.
Conservators may specialise in a range of areas including paper, paintings, photographs, ethnographic materials, ceramics, metals, bookbinding and archives, furniture, archaeological sculpture, buildings and historic sites, textiles, or preventative conservation.
Conservators may be involved in the restoration of paintings, photographs, sculptures, furniture, pottery and other museum and art gallery artefacts. They examine artefacts using various scientific techniques and other means to determine the most appropriate method of restoring them. There is a growing community awareness of heritage issues and consequently more support for conserving artefacts.
Curators make recommendations on the acquisition of paintings, photographs, sculptures, documents and other museum and art gallery artefacts. They research the origins and history of artefacts, develop a storyline and theme for displays and exhibitions, coordinate the storage of collections and setting up of displays and exhibitions, and supervise curatorial assistants and other museum technicians.
Although their traditional roles and specialities are still important, conservators and curators must also possess new skills in communications, marketing, teamwork, computer science, organisation of training, as well as project, staff and financial management.