Saturday, February 5, 2011

10 Tips for Becoming a Conservator

Tip #8: Ask lots of questions

When you’re just beginning your career in conservation, asking questions is a no-brainer because there’s so much to learn, but as time goes on and you get into the habit of completing routine tasks, it’s easy to forget to ask WHY you are doing them. The point of an internship is not only to help with the work of the lab, you should also be storing up knowledge to apply to future conservation jobs.

With the basic questions of what and how behind you, be sure to ask questions about each project that you work on—questions about:

-The history, materials and techniques of the artist (i.e. when and where did the artist work? or how did the artist prepare his materials?)

- The chemistry behind the damage and repair process (i.e. how did the object deteriorate? or why did you choose that particular adhesive?)

- The treatment techniques and tools used (i.e. what are the future implications for consolidation? or what do you use the suction table for?)

First ask these questions of your supervisor, then they will likely point you in the direction of appropriate books and articles to continue your research. [This is the perfect opportunity to build that annotated bibliography!] Imagine that a visitor will be coming to the lab and wants to know about what you’re working on…you should have plenty to say. And, in the future, when an admissions committee or employer asks you questions about your portfolio, you’ll have very thorough and practiced answers.

I think we often take our supervisors and/or mentors for granted. Not only have they been educated in conservation, they have also built up years of experience working in the field. Ask them specific questions about research they have conducted and any talks or workshops they have given. And, when you go to visit other conservators in their own labs, be sure to ask about their projects and research.

Sometimes your peers can be less intimidating than experienced conservators, so try to meet and talk with other students and pre-program interns. Being in the same situation will help to form a common ground, and unlike other friends and family who sometimes get tired of hearing about conservation, other students and interns will be happy to discuss things—like the application process—over coffee or lunch. You can also share your calendars of conservation-related events, and even carpool to get there. If there aren’t any other interns at your workplace, check the AIC directory or contact your local guild.

Finally, don’t forget to take advantage of your fellow ECPNers! Post a question to the group’s Facebook page, or send an email to one of the committee members.

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