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Frequently Asked Questions

How do I find and commission a conservator?

To find a conservator, search the Conservation Register, which holds detailed information on conservation-restoration practices in the UK and Ireland and is operated by the Institute of Conservation in partnership with Historic Scotland.

Commissioning conservation work, whether for a single item or for a collection, requires negotiation to reach a contractual agreement. It is therefore vital that both parties provide and share all necessary information. An introduction to the commissioning process can be found on the Conservation Register website. Guidelines for the commissioning and undertaking of conservation work, London: Conservation Forum, 1998 and Working with independent conservators, London: Museums and Galleries Commission, 2000 are also useful and give details of what the commissioning institution or person should expect from the conservator.

The conservator will need information about the item or collection in order to assess the type and degree of treatment required. The following are some examples:

  • its history and context within the collection and relationship with other copies held in the institution or elsewhere
  • the level and kind of use it will experience
  • whether a surrogate exists (a microfilm, facsimile, digital copy or preservation photocopy) or whether it is planned to create one, and if so, the physical implications of the surrogating process
  • details of previous treatments, especially the use of chemicals and materials - which may have health and safety implications
  • details of funding arrangements including any deadlines to be met
  • any proposed changes of use or storage or proposal to exhibit the item or lend for exhibition elsewhere
  • the institution's preservation policy should include principles such as a requirement for minimum intervention in original structures or the creation of robust structures for open-access collections, and the policy should be made available to the conservator. Please see the booklet: Building blocks for a preservation policy (PDF 49KB).

The institution, or the owner of the material, should be able to undertake or commission a degree of quality assurance on the work done.