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Subject: Career choices

Career choices

From: Susan White <smwhitewhite>
Date: Friday, January 9, 2004
Just a note I'd like to add to the Distlist in response to
discussions about the difficulty of recent grads getting jobs:

I'm a private objects conservator practicing in New York City and
though I'd like to encourage more grads to consider the option of
starting their own businesses, I have to say that right now work is
pretty scarce in the private sector as well. Private work can be
lucrative here in New York where there is a significant client base
with resources to keep a conservator more or less steadily employed.
Still lately, due to the sour economy, even wealthy New York
collectors and dealers are putting off having work done (woe is

Private work in general seems a good option for new grads though the
ability to work on a wide range of objects and materials is
essential to getting enough work to make a living.

I encourage conservation programs to emphasize a diversity of skills
for young conservators including lectures on starting and running a
private business. Specialization is a bit of a deathtrap now for
those unable to get work in institutions. If you only do ceramics
and glass it's going to be tough to get sufficient work to support
yourself outside of a museum. In any given month I'll have a Roman
marble, a baby carriage ca. 1965 and a Limoges teacup on my desk.
I've worked on clove boats and swans made of seashells. (Spices
weren't covered in the curriculum at Winterthur, but as a private
conservator one sometimes has to move along by trial and error.
Resourcefulness and courage are key). I can't emphasize the
importance for new grads to diversify skills. Given the paucity of
jobs in museums, I think this is the best way for the next
generation of conservators to prosper.

My advice to the new grad: Locate in a cosmopolitan area near a
wealthy client base. Try to affiliate yourself with an institution
so that you can get referrals. For example, intern at a major museum
and work hard to prove yourself so that when you have to leave you
can get referrals. Put together a nice web site with images of your
treatments, your resume and a client list. This is especially
helpful for obtaining new clients.

Normally I do quite well working privately, so to those despairing
grads among you: take heart, you can make a living in conservation
but you may have to chart your own course and create a business.
There are many advantages to private work. In general the pay is
much better, you can set your own hours and the diversity of objects
you get to work on is much greater. You may not always have stellar,
museum quality pieces to work on, but you will get an exciting range
of objects--high art to kitsch.

Susan White
White Conservation Services

                  Conservation DistList Instance 17:50
                 Distributed: Tuesday, January 20, 2004
                       Message Id: cdl-17-50-003
Received on Friday, 9 January, 2004

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