Conservators are usually designated according to their area of specialization, for example, painting conservator, furniture or textile conservator. An archaeological conservator has the knowledge and experience required to work with an archaeologist and his or her team. All stages of his or her work are guided by a code of ethics, the first version of which dates back to 1986. This “Code of Ethics and Practitioner’s Guide” was developed by Canadian conservators as a frame of reference for professionals working in the field.
While the conservator may be required to travel to the field, the bulk of the work is usually concentrated in a workshop with special features. These include equipment from the world of science, such as microscopes and other precision equipment, fume hoods, and hoses for extracting chemical vapors. The restoration workshop also borrows some of its equipment, including scalpels and other small tools for fine work, dental offices, and surgery rooms.
Before any intervention, the conservator’s ethics require a dialogue with the owner of the object or collection, which may also involve the archaeologist responsible for the discovery. His intervention on the object aims first and foremost to promote its preservation, avoiding if possible the use of products that could irreversibly alter its nature and structure. The restorer is a highly qualified professional, whose work is part of a process of study, enhancement, and perpetuation of heritage, all categories combined. Like the archaeologist, he must constantly keep up to date with new scientific discoveries in his field.
The practice of restoration is above all not a matter of recipes applied automatically, without consideration for the study of objects. Their detailed examination sometimes makes it possible to identify the nature of the constituent materials, to suggest a new function, or to discover valuable information for the archaeological study. Often, measures to optimize the preservation of collections are implemented. This is why preventive conservation, which includes, for example, compliance with certain climatic parameters, procedures for transport, storage, and presentation of collections, is often associated with the work of the conservator.