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Decoding Artspeak: Conservator

The temperature and humidity levels within a display case, the layers of dust that settle in the cracks and crevices of a painting, the light that falls on a work, and the angles at which it is stored—these are the delicate concerns pored over by the art conservator, armed with the forensic tools of science, a crucial nuts-and-bolts component of any art collection or museum. From the Latin conservare (servare meaning “to watch over or guard,” akin to servus, which literally translates as “slave”)—the conservator is defined as “one that preserves from injury or violation,” “one that is responsible for the care, restoration, and repair of archival or museum articles,” or, perhaps most interestingly, “an official charged with the protection of something affecting public welfare and interests.”

Tess Thackara “Decoding Artspeak: Conservator” (June 2014)