Saving Your Art: When You Need A Conservator

Finding someone to care for or repair a valued piece of art can be an overwhelming decision, whether your work has financial or sentimental value. Fortunately, conservators are here to help!

Conservators are highly trained collection care professionals, dedicated to examining, preserving, repairing and maintaining artworks. They can assist you with figuring out the best course of action, whether it’s fixing something that has been damaged or providing advice about continuing care.

Like your art, conservators come in all varieties, so figuring out which conservator is right for you may take some careful consideration. In general, conservators concentrate or specialize in broad categories such as paintings, objects, textiles, furniture or works on paper. But most understand general collection care or can refer you to the appropriate specialist. Like many other professionals, conservators vary widely in education and experience and may work alone, in professional groups or for cultural institutions.

If you live in a large metropolitan area, you may find that there are several conservators who work in a particular specialty (for example paintings), but one or more may specialize in your specific artwork (such as modern and contemporary paintings). If not, conservators have a wide range of experience, they deal with a variety of materials and collections, and are ethically bound to help you find the right solution if they cannot address your particular issue.

Before selecting a conservator, make sure that you:

  • Find out as much as you can about their work practices
  • Have a clear conversation about what you hope to accomplish
  • Get a clear sense of the potential costs and risks of doing (or not doing) the conservation work.

Check out AICs “Hiring a Conservation Professional” for information and tips on selecting a conservator, including questions you should ask, what to expect and a link to a database.

Other useful links in this process include:

Remember, caring for art requires as much attention and deliberation as creating it. Sometimes conservation can be time consuming and expensive, but reclaiming a thought-to-be-lost treasure can be priceless.

– Kerith Koss Schrager and Lisa Goldberg, Conservators


Kerith Koss Schrager is a Professional Associate and Lisa Goldberg is a Fellow of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (AIC)