Monday, December 20, 2010

10 Tips for Becoming a Conservator

Tip #4: Begin assembling your portfolio early on

I think the term “portfolio” can be confusing to beginning conservators because all of the graduate program websites refer to your portfolio as a collection of studio art (paintings, drawings, etc.). You will need to have photographs of your artwork and/or original pieces to bring with you to interviews, but in addition to that you will be required to create a comprehensive binder showcasing all of your conservation experience: before and after treatment photos, copies of treatment proposals and reports, and documentation of any other preventive conservation projects and research. Altogether, this is what you should think of as your portfolio.

Oftentimes pre-program students will not see a single portfolio until attending the open house of one of the graduate programs; this was the case for me, so I really appreciated the opportunity to flip through ten very different portfolios, and ask the students why they organized them in a particular way. This is one of the reasons I highly recommend attending the open house days. Each school posts on their website when the next open house/portfolio day will be, and you can also email the department administrator to have your name put on the invitation list.

Examples of open houses, from 2010:

UCLA

Buffalo

Winterthur (photo at right)

If you’re unable to make it to an open house, ask your supervisor and other co-workers if they have a portfolio that you can look at—current or not—just to get an idea of what is included as well as how it is formatted. More and more people are posting their portfolios online too, so try googling ‘art conservation portfolio’ and check out the ones that come up. These past students from the UT Austin program were ahead of the curve in posting their portfolios before the program closed.

One thing that makes a portfolio great is visual appeal. Before and after treatment photographs are necessary as documentation, but be sure to also take lots of photos of objects during treatment and of YOU while working. Conservators are used to building portfolios, so they should be more than willing to assume the position of personal photographer for you if you ask nicely.

And remember throughout the whole pre-program process to stay organized so that when you finally get ready to put your portfolio together, you won’t have to scramble to copy reports or find out the names and dates of every piece you’ve treated! It helps to make copies of all written documentation involved with the projects you’re working on as you go along.

Finally, don’t worry about spending a lot of money on the materials for your portfolio; ultimately, the content is what will get you accepted into school or chosen for a job.

1 comment:

Rose Daly said...

Great post - portfolios are really daunting, it's good to get started early.

It's also helpful to add photocopies of signature pages to show that you got permission before you began treatment. It also gives a conservator reading the portfolio the chance to see the name of your supervisor, who they may know or have worked with before.