How to choose an art conservator
How to find an art conservator
There are a couple ways to go about choosing a conservator. Your project budget, project details, and your organization's protocol will help determine which avenue to take for your project.
Method 1: RFP
One way to find a conservator is through issuing an RFP (request for proposals). By creating an RFP, vendors will send you their estimates for the project along with a synopsis of what they would propose to do for your project. Typically after receiving these proposals, vendors will be narrowed down to 3-5 possible candidates. These candidates would go through a series of interviews before selecting a vendor.
Ready to get started with writing an RFP? You can learn more about writing an RFP from our "How to write an RFP" article where you can even download a helpful checklist to follow throughout the process.
Method 2: Research & Interview
Another avenue to find a conservator is to simply do some traditional research and basic interviews. Your first step is to create your list of potential candidates. You'll want to make sure they are qualified and are aware of the best conservation practices to date. The easiest way to search adequate conservators is to use the Find a Conservator tool on the American Institute for Conservation (AIC) website. This will show you a list of conservators that are current members of the AIC, the organization who establishes and upholds conservation industry standards. From here, you can begin narrowing your list down based on whatever criteria is most important to your project. You might want to take into consideration each company's:
Portfolio - What does their work look like?
References - What do their past clients say about them?
Staff - Who is on their team and what experience do they have?
Capabilities - What services do they offer?
Service Area - Are they willing to travel?
You'll want to keep in mind the needs of your own project such as:
Am I looking for a long-term relationship or a single project contract?
When will I be ready to start my project?
Are there any special requirements for my project?
How to research
You can do quick screenings of potential candidates just from the AIC's database. When you click on the name of a company or person, you will be able to view their basic profile information. To dig a little deeper, you can look at their website. Most qualified conservators showcase examples of their work online so you can get a better understanding of their skill level and types of projects they've worked on. Typically you can also see any other conservators they may have on staff, their service list, and client examples. You might also want to check out their social media feeds, blogs, newsletters, or videos. From there, any candidates you feel meet the needs of your project could be contacted for an estimate and phone interview (if you have any additional questions).
How to interview
When contacting a conservator, you're probably going to want to learn about their experience with your specific project needs. However, in the world of conservation, it is important to remember that not all conservation projects are alike. Every painting, object, sculpture, or cultural heritage piece has its own story and unique circumstances for the condition it is in. Conservators are able to draw on their experience and knowledge from various past projects to create a custom plan for your specific situation. So while a conservator might not have exact experience with a project exactly like yours, most conservators have enough experience with enough similar projects to determine options for how to proceed with yours. Be sure to ask questions about the company's process, availability, skill set, capabilities, and payment structure.
Best of luck!