About the Field of Conservation

What is Conservation?

According to the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (AIC), “conservation encompasses actions taken toward the long-term preservation of cultural property. Conservation activities include examination, documentation, treatment, and preventative care, supported by research and education.”

In the library setting, cultural property can be defined as anything that is part of the library’s collection. Books, papers, fine art, clothing, furniture, etc.

Conservation personnel follow the guidelines and standards of practice as outlined by the AIC. Supplies used in the treatment of special collections materials are of the highest quality and the treatments are planned to be as reversible as possible. Documentation of the treatment itself, through both written and photographic means, is an important component of this work as well.

What is a Conservator?

A conservator is a trained professional that works to provide long-term preservation to objects of all kinds.

According to the AIC, “conservators are professionals who work to physically save our cultural property from the ravages of time, the threats of pollution, and the devastation brought by natural disasters. A conservator may be trained at a conservation graduate training program or by lengthy apprenticeship with experienced senior colleagues. Working in museums, other cultural institutions, research labs, and in private practice, conservators combine unique skills gained through ongoing study and advanced training in art history, science, studio art, and related disciplines to care for and preserve our tangible history.”