While studying Classics at Otago I did volunteer work with the Artefact Conservator at the Otago Museum as handling and preserving cultural materials was something that really interested me.
I went on to complete a Master’s in Cultural Materials Conservation at the University of Melbourne. At first I was quite worried about the amount of chemistry involved, but my motivation for conserving and preserving objects was enough to see my poor brain through it.
I began my career as a Conservator at Museum Victoria in Melbourne, but I now work at the Australian Museum in Sydney as the Natural Sciences Conservator. I seem to have entered conservation from an ancient history and decorative arts base and moved into Natural Sciences conservation.
At the Australian Museum I work mainly with the Natural Sciences collections (like taxidermy specimens), but also work with the cultural collections. The Australian Museum is the oldest Museum in Australia and has excellent Natural Science and Cultural collections. We also have some ancient history materials, which are housed at Macquarie University.
As a Conservator I blend science and art together to ensure the long-term preservation of cultural artefacts. I use my understanding of materials science and chemistry to influence the types of treatments I carry out on each individual artefact.
Aspects of what I learnt studying Classics, such as ancient manufacturing methods and materials, are useful to my work as a Conservator as we have to understand how an object was made and from what before we can treat it. I would strongly advise Classics students to think outside the box when choosing a career; Materials Conservation is extremely rewarding and satisfying work!