Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects

Difference Between Curators and Conservators

Curators vs Conservators

Curators and conservators refer to the people and the specific jobs they do in a museum or any organization associated with the preservation and restoration of arts and artifacts. These two positions work closely together to conserve and protect historic items so that they will be appreciated by the public and future generations.

However, these two positions differ in many ways, especially in their duties, responsibilities, and their own respective education and training.

Curators are the people tasked to collect, handle, and manage historical items. The curator has the ability to categorize an item based on its origins. The item is included in a collection, a group of similar items in the same period or origin. In addition to managing items, the curator also manages the people in the museum. The curator usually acts as the overseer of people and directs them into tasks regarding the items or the collection.

Due to the nature of the work, the curator is often seen as an administrative director or part of the museum management. The curator also prepares, arranges, and transports a collection of items from one place or another. The curator is also the person to ask about a particular piece or collection itself. Curators do a lot of research when assembling or promoting a collection. They are also knowledgeable about the people who made the piece as well as how the piece was made.

The education and training of a curator entails a master’s or doctoral degree in humanistic subjects like: history, art, art history, archeology, anthropology, and other similar courses. Because of the level of education involved, curators are seen as experts or specialists in their respective field. Curators also spend their time in giving talks, publishing related pieces, or traveling to places which may have a good piece of art or artifact. They are often called to authenticate items or give opinions about a particular item.

On the other hand, conservators are the people behind the scenes or museum doors. They are people whose main task is to preserve and ensure the quality and safety of items. They usually focus on the physical condition of an item and evaluate it if it needs some treatment or repair.

As the name implies, a conservator is a person whose tasks include the inspection of the item’s stability or condition, physical or chemical corrosion, and assessing it for any kind of damage on its structure and surface. Also, conservators can recommend a treatment for the item for preservation.

Conservators usually work under a curator or a museum manager.  Like curators, they deal directly with a piece. They usually are concerned with maintenance and preservation, especially if the piece is constantly in transport for promotion. Unlike curators, they usually do not have contact with the public or outside entities.

Conservators are like technicians. They have knowledge of old and new techniques to preserve and conserve historical items. They often used practical knowledge and have excellent skills.

A conservator usually has a master’s degree in art or preservation. They also usually have in-depth experience in preservation. In addition, they are also specialists in their field or a particular artifact. Some conservators specialize in the preservation of paintings, papers, books, sculptures, furniture, historic items, art and many more types of artifacts.


  1. Both curators and conservators work in museums or places where there is art, artifacts, and the preservation of these items.
  2. The curators are the people who act as keepers of the items. They manage the item and authenticate it as a part of works made by a specific maker or made during a specific period.  In contrast, conservators work directly with the item and determine if it is still intact or needs repair.
  3. In addition, the curators also manage people, the public, the entities who sponsor the collection, and the people directly working in the museum. The curator, who is often an administrator in the museum, also guides conservators. Conservators, on the other hand, only manage the items and how should they be preserved.
  4. Curators research about the item or the collection itself while conservators are knowledgeable about techniques for preservation.
  5. Most curators have master’s or doctoral degrees in humanities in addition to their work experience. A master’s degree is also a requirement for a conservator along with in-depth knowledge in old and new preservation techniques as well as experience.

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1 Comment

  1. Conservators have an art history background, but have more emphasis upon the science and chemistry of the materials of artifacts as part of their training. They make recommendations about restoration treatments and often carry out the treatment. They also make recommendations for the storage, display and travel environments for the artifacts. They may do scientific analysis of artifacts to aid in their attribution and identification.

    The relationship between the curator and the conservator varies with the institution where they both work, More often than not they have equal status with curators. Some conservators work in private practices where they offer their services to the public and institutions.

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