Friday, March 4, 2011

10 Tips for Becoming a Conservator

Tip #10: Make sacrifices

"People make a great mistake in thinking that my art has come easily to me but nobody has devoted so much time and thought to music as I." -Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

This one I saved for last because it’s sometimes the hardest to hear; when a great opportunity arises, you should take advantage of it, even if it means making some sacrifices. This is certainly true of any goal we set in life, but seems particularly applicable to this stage of becoming a conservator. As I look back over the other 9 tips, two fundamental sacrifices stand out to me: time—to visit conservators, read online resources, attend events, and create a bibliography—and money—to join professional organizations, fulfill the pre-requisites required for application to the programs, and, again, to attend events.

I’m not suggesting that you go without sleep in order to read every conservation blog, or accumulate credit card debt so you’re able to join every organization. Just do the best you can with the resources at hand. If an amazing internship opens up in another city, consider commuting as a possibility. If the only experience you can find is unpaid, take it and maybe a paid position will open up in the future. If an interesting and instructive conference is about to take place and you can’t afford it, ask about volunteer opportunities in order to waive the registration fee. It’s true that the more sacrifices you make the more you’ll reap the benefits, but the main point, no matter what the situation, is to be determined to make it work.

If you chose conservation as a career, you must have a passion for art, or science, or both! You're giving a lot, but what you're getting in return is a job that you love--and, in my opinion, that's worth the effort. There are some great things about being pre-program, like having the opportunity to work with a variety of materials, or take classes in all the areas that interest you. So, when this process becomes stressful and/or you need some motivation to keep at it, remind yourself to enjoy each and every step. Believe it or not, these few years will fly by and before you know it, you'll be a conservator! Good luck!

Was there something I missed? Please feel free to post an additional tip to the blog as Tip #11 (nobody said there had to be 10!).


Anonymous said...

Hi Heather,

I thought I should let you know I re-posted your tips as one post on my blog:

It seems to be a popular post, and there's a few comments you might like to read/reply to/ignore - as you see fit. lol.

Congrats on the post - I think it was very worthwhile, my tip as an addition would be "remember there's more than one way to skin a cat"
That is to say there are schools in many countries of the world, there are alternatives to schools as ways into the field (e.g., apprenticeships), so if you really, really, really, want to do conservation, don't worry too much if the standard options don't quite fit how you'd like to start out - as there are options.

It's also good advice for treatments: there's usually multiple suitable approaches to an object, so never feel that yours is "wrong", but always be open to critique, improvement, and learning new approaches.



Heather Brown said...

That's a great tip, Dan, and thanks for re-posting! I also like Kevin's tip from your blog: practice, practice, practice.

So many things to do!! Maybe tip #13 should be "stay calm."

Unknown said...

Hi Heather,

Great tips, and I think ending with 'make sacrifices' is fantastic to show the journey that conservation takes you on.

I think we all enjoyed the posts and if I could add any tip it would be to stay open, I have studied a variety of topics from the methphysics of objects to the conservation of intangible cultural heritage that excite me, and these are not considered traditional conservation. Conservation is a field that has space for all of us and our interests so don't be shy about charting a new path, indeed diversity is exactly what the field needs.

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