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The Job of the Conservator

December 4th, 2009

Valerie Rissel

MA Student, Program in Maritime Studies

Museums are a huge part of modern civilization.  Sometimes they display humanity’s successes and in other cases, its failures.  Through it all, the history of our world is presented. Museums do not work alone though. Conservation efforts are the glue that hold together the two worlds of archaeology and museums.  Without conservation in the middle these two would not exist together in the harmony that they generally do now. 

            When an item is originally recovered, either from a terrestrial site or from underwater, it is rarely in a state that could be presented in a museum.  Even if the surface of the item looks pristine, there is still cleaning that must be done to stabilize the item.  This is the job of the conservator.  Without conservation efforts, these items would most likely be crudely cleaned in a way that could possibly damage them.  This would not be out of negligence, but instead would stem from a simple lack of knowledge on the subject.  Also because of the lack of stabilization to the artifact, it would most likely decay before the visitor’s eyes.

            Conservators, museums, and archaeologists work to recover, preserve and display history for years to come.  Each of these groups are equally important.  Because of this, each would be unable to survive if one of the other groups was to dissolve.  Despite this, in this case I have chosen to focus on conservators to highlight their part within this cycle.  Funding may always be an issue for all of these groups, but as long as museums display objects and archaeologists recover artifacts, there will be jobs for conservators.  

General Conservation

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