Conservationist Conservator; not Conservative

March 07 2018

A conservator is someone who works in a cultural institution or in the private sector, conserving art and artifacts for the future. We have sometimes been called “restorers” but that term implies a craftsperson, while the profession has come to encompass science and a strong code of ethics governing when and how to perform conservation work. Like many in my field, I have a graduate degree in conservation from one of the few schools that offer it. (I went to Buffalo State College.)

Conservators specialize in a certain kind of material, such as paintings, objects, photographs, furniture, books, paper, or textiles. I love my job because I get to work with my hands, both sides of my brain, spend time with beautiful, important, valuable things, and maintain our cultural heritage for future generations. Plus, there is sometimes travel involved.

I am sometimes mistakenly called a “conservationist” but I don’t mind, because I consider myself to be one. There would be no point in preserving the world’s artifacts without preserving the world itself.

Climate change is just one of the planet’s problems. I am equally concerned about ocean acidification, chemical contamination, plastic pollution, habitat loss, and biodiversity loss. Regulation of industry is a good thing. Regulation prevents a small number of people from making short-term profits off the use and destruction of resources that should be shared by all living things.

It is really common to go through a “quarter-life crisis” in your 20s when you have to commit to a direction in life- if you are there, trust me: you will find your way eventually.

Understand how your government works. Bring reusable bags to the store. Cut back on meat consumption. Always recycle aluminum - bauxite mining is horrendous, so let’s keep the existing supply going.

Try some Surrealist Parlor Games, like this one: Have a group of friends write “if” and “then” phrases on strips of paper. Put the “if” phrases in one bowl and “then” phrases in another. Pull out one of each and read them aloud. You could end up with something like “If you lick a turtle, then music will fall from the sky.” Fun for all ages.

Silent Spring by Rachel Carson
Our Stolen Future by Theo Colborn
The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert

The American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (AIC)
International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM)
International Council of Museums- Committee for Conservation (ICOM-CC)
The Environmental Working Group (EWG)
Environmental Health News (EHN)

Check out The Mountain Goats if you haven’t already.


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