What is a Preventive Conservator?

Icon's Care of Collections Group explain the role of a Preventive Conservator for Student Month

03 Oct 2023


Also known as a Collections Care Conservator, the primary role of a Preventive Conservator is to use preventive rather than conservation treatment measures to mitigate collection and historic fabric risks before damage occurs. 


Common role characteristics

  • Problem solver 
  • Knowledge about materials science 
  • Can evaluate risks 
  • Can use their own critical judgement 
  • Is a good communicator 
  • Is a collection advocate 
  • Understands remedial conservation activities 
  • Knowledge of the ‘Agents of Deterioration’ and their impact on collections 


Preventive Conservator Activities

  • Monitoring collection temperature, relative humidity, light exposure and pollutants 
  • Analysing results from monitoring, developing and delivering proactive care plans to manage deterioration 
  • Assessing collection storage and handling including packing materials and Health and Safety restrictions 
  • Carrying out Insect Pest Management monitoring 
  • Manage collection risks and implement new procedures based on monitoring data and observations; such as housekeeping practices, environmental control, emergency planning and salvage response 
  • Training others to help implement these procedures 
  • Collaborating across disciplines such as curators, archaeologists, building surveyors and architects  
  • Working closely with interventive conservators to identify appropriate treatments  
  • Enabling access by developing and negotiating conservation safe use of collections and heritage buildings 
  • Embedding sustainability and climate adaptation in all work 
  • Advising on the creation of new stores including specifying storage furniture and planning the use of space. 
  • Advising on the use of showcases, plinths, barriers and glazing for display including the use of micro-climates. 
  • Working with loans registrars to complete UK Registrar’s Group Facilities reports for loans out and advising on the suitability of the conditions set out in the reports sent by potential borrowers. 


Where can you train to become a Preventive Conservator in the UK? 


Online resources