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Hi everyone,

I have recently been looking into becoming an Art Conservator / Restorer however I can't seem to find very much information pertaining to my current situation.  I am hoping someone here is able to help me.

I have an undergraduate degree in a non-related field (psychology) and would like to know what I need to do in order to become an art conservator.  The only post baccalaureate program that I can find is the one year program at SACI in Florence, Italy but I am wondering if there are any other options for me other than this one route.  It seems very unlikely that I would be able to enter directly into a masters program but at the same time it seems to be overkill to have to obtain another undergraduate degree.

Any direction would be very much appreciated.

Thanks so much,

Sincerely,

Kadin Goldberg

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What sort of conservation are you interested in? Have you taken any art history courses before? How are your science grades? I ask about science because if I remember correctly, conservation programs require knowledge of chemistry/physics. I don't think you'd necessarily need to get another complete undergraduate degree in order to be accepted into a conservation program, but you might need to take additional courses (either before applying or after acceptance) in order to enter grad. school at a similar level of knowledge to other incoming students. It might be really helpful for you to ask the conservation programs you are interested in what additional coursework/experience you might need in order to qualify for admission.

As far as other programs, I don't know whether you are in the United States, but the School of the Art Institute of Chicago has a Master of Science in Historic Preservation. The SAIC is an awesome school overall, though I admittedly know very little about this specific degree program.

Also, check out NYU IFA's Conservation Program, The Courtauld Institute, London (which I think has both a degree program and certificate in various kinds of conservation), and UCLA/Getty's Interdepartmental Program in the Conservation of Archaeological and Ethnographic Materials.

Google is also your friend - I found this article that lists nine conservation programs.

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  • 2 months later...

Hi Kadin,

I am currently working towards getting into an art conservation program myself. Going into conservation, like most programs, is a lot of work. There are four main programs in the US: The University of Delaware, NYU, SUNY Buffalo, and The UCLA Getty program in Archaeological and Ethnographic Conservation. All of there requirements are a little different but in general they are a mix of art history and studio classes plus general and organic chemistry. Most people take their undergrad plus an extra year to complete them (I did) and from my understanding they are not flexible about meeting these requirements. 

All programs will require a portfolio of art work and previous conservation work (the specifics for each school are listed in the admission requirements) either submitted with application or presented at the interview.

Programs also require you to have worked a certain number of hours under the supervision of a conservator, usually a couple hundred. The required hours are a lot lower than most accepted applicants have actually completed, most applicants have worked in the field as interns, volunteers, or conservation technicians for at least two years.

It usually takes a couple of application cycles to be accepted.

International programs usually don't have the same type of prerequisites but I think you're less likely to get funding.

I just finished my first application cycle, I was not accepted this year, but I think that is pretty normal.

I would suggest looking up conservators in your area, both private practice and in museums, and asking them about their experiences and their work. It is also a great starting off point for asking about volunteer opportunities. Almost everyone will do at least one unpaid internship before being accepted to school.

My understanding is that the intensive requirements are a way to limit the number of conservators entering the field each year so that the field doesn't become overcrowded.

I know you don't want to go the undergraduate route but if you did Delaware is the only school in the US (I think) that offers an undergrad degree in art conservation and I think it is essentially a structured way to meet all of the pre-reqs for graduate school.

I know my experience won't be exactly like anyone else's but if you want to ask more questions feel free.

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  • 1 year later...

Kadin, see if you can find conservation labs at museums or private practice businesses in your area who might be willing to let you visit. You can look up the ones in your area using the "Find a Conservator" tool on the AIC (our national organization) website. Just send some cold emails. You won't get a 100% response rate but  if they are willing to let you visit, you can get a better sense of what their work is like. Sometimes people will even offer you a work opportunity during your visit. Many early experiences in the field are unpaid (volunteer or intern) but it will be very beneficial for you to see if you are good at it and want to keep going.

If you do decide to look into conservation grad school, you'll also need to take courses in chemistry, art history or studio art, to fill whatever gaps you have in the pre-reqs required for each school. At a minimum, you'll need 2 semesters each of inorganic and organic chem (with good grades) plus a certain number of art history and studio art courses. Look on program websites for specifics. It will take you awhile but is common for people to spend a few years doing night/weekend classes to get the requirements they didn't take in undergrad. 

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