Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies

371 Varner Hall
Varner Hall Room 217
Rochester, MI 48309-4485
(location map)
(248) 370-2154

Dr. Joe Shively
Interim Director, BALS Program
Associate Dean, College of Arts and Sciences

Art Conservation and Restoration

Chemistry + Studio Art

Art conservation/restoration is an interdisciplinary field involving studio practices, sciences, and the humanities with conservators having responsibilities including the long-term preservation of artistic and cultural artifacts. Conservators meet these responsibilities by making an analysis and assessment of the artifact’s condition, understanding processes and evidence of deterioration, planning for care and management to prevent damage, implementing conservation treatments and conducting research. Conservation includes determining the materials, method of manufacture, and properties of objects or structures and the causes and extent of deterioration or alteration, and consequently, scientific analysis and research to identify historic and artistic methods and materials of fabrication, and to evaluate the efficacy and appropriateness of materials and procedures of conservation.

Conservators often have backgrounds in fine arts, sciences such as chemistry, biology and materials science, as well as art history, archaeology, studio art and anthropology. They also have design fabrication, artistic, and other special skills necessary for the practical application of that knowledge. Conservation labs often use equipment such as microscopes, spectrometers, and x-ray machines to aid in understanding objects and their components where collected data helps determine the necessary conservation treatment. The use of chemical and scientific analysis for the examination and treatment of cultural works shows the advantages of combining art and chemistry in an interdisciplinary approach.


Careers in conservation vary depending on the particular material or group of objects being conserved and can include paintings, art on paper, textiles, archives, books, photographs, electronic media, sculpture, decorative arts, architecture, built environments, archaeology, natural science, or ethnographic materials. Conservators often work in locations including museums, regional facilities, heritage institutions, libraries, universities, archives, laboratories, government agencies, and private conservation enterprises. Other positions held by conservators include conservation administrator, conservation educator, conservation scientist, conservation technician, and collections care/preservation specialist. Education and training for such careers should provide technical and scientific knowledge of materials and deterioration processes, develop appropriate aesthetic and perceptual abilities, and instill an essential ethnical perspective.