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BellaOnline's Museums Editor

When to Hire a Conservator

We’ve all seen the Antiques Roadshow appraiser explain how much more a piece would have been worth if it had not been refinished or unprofessionally repaired. Monetary value is often important to the owner, but historical integrity ranks high too.

Don’t ever attempt to restore, repair or clean any antique that is rare, valuable or important to you! A professional is always worth the cost.

A conservator is professionally trained to clean and repair antiques and artifacts. Most specialize in a specific area of conservation work, such as paper, textiles, or paintings.

To find a conservator, visit the website of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works. AIC is the national membership organization for conservation professionals. A tool on their website will help you locate an appropriate conservator for your project.

Once you find the right conservator, you will have a consultation about the work that needs to be done. The conservator will provide an estimate as well as a timeline for your project.

Individuals are often surprised by the cost of conservation. Given the time and skill needed to perform this type of work, the investment is worth the cost. The alternative – attempting the work yourself – could be disastrous and lead to irreversible damage to your antique.

Treatments for even the simplest repair are often time-consuming and tedious. Stabilizing a 19th century silk garment, for example, requires hundreds – if not thousands – of tiny stitches. Painstakingly cleaning a painting with small brushes can take weeks or even months to complete.

Conservators are also highly trained individuals. For example, cleaning a painting requires in-depth chemistry knowledge. You have to know what solvents will dissolve the grime, but not harm the paint. This is NOT something an amateur should attempt!

Before trying to “fix” any problem with your artifact, consult a conservator. Don’t risk ruining a family heirloom! Find a professional conservator to do the work for you.

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Content copyright © 2013 by Kim Kenney. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Kim Kenney. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Kim Kenney for details.

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