Career pathways: Head of Conservation

Flash required

You need Flash Player 9 (or better) installed in your browser in order to view this content.

Get Adobe Flash Player [opens in a new window]

View transcript
Close transcript
Q. Who are you?
My name is Neil Wressel, and I’m acting head of conservation at Plymouth Museum.
Q. What does your job involve?
The conservator’s role: we work with the collections manager and the creators to look after the collection and to help understand the collection fully.
Q. What skills do you need?
It’s a balancing between the craft and the arts, between the arts side and the science side. The profession has developed over the years and we have to have a firm understand of the chemistry of objects, how those objects are made and what they’re made of, and how they might react over the years.
Q. What challenges do you face?
Well some of the materials you think are quite stable, such as plastics, the early plastics are degrading now and there’s nothing we can do to stop that degradation process, that cellulite and acetate and cellulose nitrates, and now we’ve got to stop them falling apart. So materials such as early film need to be transcribed onto other materials and stored at vey low temperatures. So some of the materials that you think are very stable are quite transient – they will change, they will degrade. So in a museum collection we will try to keep things for as long as possible, and that’s why we have to understand them both chemically and physically.
Q. What was your career path?
I did an art degree when I first left school, I was then a practicing artist in London for a few years. To fund that art I started working part-time with an art transport company. After a few years of doing that I became a conservation technician at the Tate gallery helping move the old store of the sculpture collection to the new store. That’s the kind of thing that helped move my career development into conservation. So I had to take a few years off from being a technician to do a course, an MA at the Royal College of art, the V & A course, and then came back into conservation.
Q. What’s good about your job?
I work with great objects. Museums usually attract a nice crowd of people. The objects are things that you hope will last for the next generation to see and the generation after. It’s nice to go home that think that you made something last for longer for more people to enjoy and learn from.
Close transcript