What Does an Art Conservator Do?

Contributor: Brian Anthony. Lesson ID: 11827

We've all heard pleas from conservationists to preserve the glories of our environment. Political conservatives try to preserve the best of cultures. How about conserving great art? Is that for you?


History, Visual Arts

Fine Arts
learning style
personality style
Otter, Golden Retriever
Grade Level
High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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How much of the damage inflicted by Mr. Bean on this poor painting could possibly be undone?

Bean (9/12) Movie CLIP - Staining Whistler's Mother (1997) HD (Movieclips.com):

Nothing lasts forever.

It is sad to think of it, but some of the greatest pieces of art have been lost to the cruelties of time. Fortunately, there are dedicated professionals whose job it is to rescue works of art and give them a few more years of life.

Watch a video about the job that art conservators do. As you watch The Art and Science of Conservation: Behind the Scenes at the Freer Gallery of Art, courtesy of the Smithsonian, write information to answer the following questions:

  • What types of artwork did the conservators rescue?
  • What techniques did they use to restore the works of art?
  • What did science have to do with it?


Share your findings with your parent or teacher, then reflect on the following questions and discuss:

  • What do you think are some of the specific kinds of damage that happen to works of art over time?
  • What skills and knowledge do you probably need to know in order to become an art conservator?
  • What do you think would be fun about this job? What would be challenging about it?

Art conservators work quietly and behind the scenes to make sure the art in a gallery or museum is ready for show time.

In the Got It? section, learn about the different areas of conservation and some of the specific skills conservators need to develop.

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