Conservator and Curator

Conservators plan, organize and undertake the preservation and conservation of materials and objects in private and public collections, including libraries, archives, museums, art galleries, and historical and archaeological sites.

Conservators examine and evaluate the condition of objects and possibly confirm their identification and authenticity. They organise systematic inspections of collections and prepare written and photographic reports. They advise on the optimum storage and display conditions (e.g. correct light, relative humidity, integrated pest management and temperature control) for the objects in their care.

Conservators also advise on the correct methods for handling, storing, displaying and transporting works of art and artefacts. They conduct research into the material or technological nature of collections and of materials and techniques critical to their preservation or conservation. They undertake extensive research into deterioration problems within collections and undertake conservation and restoration procedures to correct damage or control deterioration and record details of the measures taken.

Conservators may specialise in a range of areas including paper, paintings, photographs, ethnographic materials, ceramics, metals, bookbinding and archives, furniture, archaeological sculpture, buildings and historic sites, textiles, or preventative conservation.

Conservators may be involved in the restoration of paintings, photographs, sculptures, furniture, pottery and other museum and art gallery artefacts. They examine artefacts using various scientific techniques and other means to determine the most appropriate method of restoring them. There is a growing community awareness of heritage issues and consequently more support for conserving artefacts.

Curators make recommendations on the acquisition of paintings, photographs, sculptures, documents and other museum and art gallery artefacts. They research the origins and history of artefacts, develop a storyline and theme for displays and exhibitions, coordinate the storage of collections and setting up of displays and exhibitions, and supervise curatorial assistants and other museum technicians.

Although their traditional roles and specialities are still important, conservators and curators must also possess new skills in communications, marketing, teamwork, computer science, organisation of training, as well as project, staff and financial management.

Personal Requirements

  • keen interest in history, historical artefacts, art history and materials technology
  • sound analytical and research skills
  • good communication and people skills
  • some artistic and/or technical aptitude and good judgement
  • organisational / administrative ability
  • responsible, ethical, self-motivated, persistent and versatile
  • patience for fine work and attention to detail
  • computer skills and manual dexterity
  • sensitivity to indigenous and ethnic cultural issues

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

Compulsory Subjects: No compulsory subjects
Recommended subjects: History
Pass in Matric with a Bachelor's pass
Check the university admission requirements.

What to Study

Degree: BA degree with some of the following subjects: History, History of Art, Anthropology, Archaeology, Latin, Languages, Library and Information Science, Public Administration, Political Science or Political Studies, Law, Geography or Economics, available at most universities.

Library and Information Services / Sciences - BA is available at UV, BTech at UNISA and TUT, BLibrary - UWC, UZ.

Diploma: Library and Information Studies - UNISA, DUT, TUT

It is also advisable to gain a postgraduate qualification with archives, museum studies or library components.


  • universities and universities of technology
  • libraries and museums
  • historical societies
  • publishing firms
  • government agencies
  • archives
  • schools
  • HSRC

Further Information

Any of the above potential employers

Getting Started

  • historical work, research work or work as a museum or library assistant is useful experience for potential conservators and curators
  • experience with computers or working in a government department may be helpful
  • make appointments to speak to a conservator or a curator about this type of career

Programmes by Study Institutions

Related Occupations

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