Obtaining a degree in art restoration can provide you with a path to a rewarding career. Restoring art is the repairing of damages in paintings, sculptures, textiles, manuscripts, murals and so on. Art conservation, however, is the process that conserves the artifacts from earlier times by cleaning and fixing them with various materials including, but not limited to, paint and ceramics. The two areas of study often are treated interchangeably.
While art restoration and art conservation are similar to some degree, the former has been controversial through the years because it often involves irreversible changes to the original work. Both types of artist attempt to retain the integrity of the artifact. But a conservator will fix the material to preserve it for generations with the attempt to make all changes reversible. On the other hand, the restorer will repair the material the way he thinks it should look. Also, a restorer uses cleaning techniques to make the artifact look more pristine, which is contrary to the conservator's goal - to make the artifact as genuine as possible.
Conservators are generally academically trained, carrying a bachelor's or master's of Fine Arts degree (MFA). Restorers, on the other hand, ordinarily improve their skills through trainings, workshops, apprenticeships and other programs. A lot of colleges or universities offer degrees specializing in these two techniques. For restorers, the following art schools offer courses that specialize in conservation, history and criticism. Some of these institutions offer bachelor's or master's degrees that will help you pursue a career:
- University of Washington-Seattle Campus
- University of Denver
- University of San Diego
- University of San Francisco
- University of Chicago
- University of Delaware
- University of Nebraska-Lincoln
- Carlow University
- Princeton University
- Indiana University
Many universities outside the United States, particularly in Europe, offer classes and degrees as well. Examples are the Royal Academy of the Arts in Belgium, Academy of Fine Arts in Prague, Northumbria University in United Kingdom and Lorenzo de' Medici in Italy.
Typically, programs take three years with a mixture of internship, oral and written examinations, and research papers. Some programs are already specialized, requiring specific skills such as painting restoration, paper conservation, frame restoration, etc. Prior to selecting a degree, determine the material you want to work with and whether or not you are interested in curatorial work.
Some of the materials that you may want to choose as a specialty are textiles, wood, paper, photographs, paintings and sculptures. Once you have chosen the medium with which you want to work, selecting the courses will be easier. There are many courses that all art restoration pupils will need to obtain a degree. These classes are art history, archeology, chemistry, crafting, philosophy and ethics.
For internships, you may be required to work in the same geographical area after graduation so it is important that you are ready for this setting. Prior to enrolling, you will also find it useful to check the organizations or museums the school has a connection with. One such place is the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Massachusetts. Art students who attend any college can apply for an internship with the museum. They also have a program for those who wish to volunteer or anyone interested in permanent employment.
Most of the students who obtain an art restoration degree will work for a museum or similar organization. They handle the processes that involve getting an artifact to the gallery. This includes traveling all over the world to check the authenticity of and obtain items of historical importance; transporting items to the museum for restoration; completing work on objects to make them look as they did when they were first created; and finally, finding a final home for the artifact whether that be on display or placed in storage for protection.
All works will come to a point where they will need quality restoration because of the aging process brought about by varying climates and exposure to the natural environment. Because of this, jobs require the use of first-rate skills in order to retain an artifact's character, value and integrity. Once you have your degree, you can start your art career!