Preparator

DEFINITION

Among those people in art careers, an art museum preparator performs or supervises the performance of duties involving the handling of art objects for a variety of purposes including exhibitions, research and teaching, and assists curators in the maintenance of collections.Depending on its size and needs, a museum typically employs preparators at one to three levels. The titles of positions at three levels are: principal preparator, senior preparator, and preparator.A principal or head preparator supervises the activities of other preparators, and performs the most technical, skilled preparatory work with museum collections, including assisting in conservation and restoration projects, in consultation with appropriate museum scientists or administrators; maintains collections according to museum classification or storage systems; and coordinates the installation of art exhibitions. A principal museum preparator might perform limited research on museum materials or exhibit projects, and may serve as a docent to visitors and present talks to school groups by introducing students and scholars to a collection. A principal museum preparator typically directs and coordinates the installation schedule of art exhibitions in several galleries; advises the curatorial staff on installation methods, and initiates new methods. A principal museum preparator bears responsibility for the safe handling of all works of art in the museum.A senior museum preparator serves at the operational level in performing preparatory work, performing conservation and restoration, including the cleaning of objects for exhibition; sorts, arranges, and integrates art objects into classification or storage systems; conditions and installs works of art; and assembles and re-files art objects, including checking items returned from loan for possible damage. A senior museum preparator typically receives, conditions, mats, unmats, mounts, cleans, frames and stretches, installs, packs, ships, and records the location of works of art in all media; uses a wide variety of tools, hardware and equipment; and acts as security guard during installation projects.A museum preparator typically performs manual work involving the transfer of art objects within a museum, and for special exhibit layout; assists in the layout of art objects for exhibition programs and research projects; packs, unpacks and prepares shipments; assists in inventory and other collections work, including the typing of storage labels; assists in the arrangement of art objects within collections study and storage areas; assists in the construction of exhibit cases (vitrines, pedestals and other means of display) and the painting of panels, backgrounds, etc.; and assists in the maintenance of inventory records.This definition is largely drawn from a description of the museum preparator position published by the University of California, Los Angeles in 1976.Also see director, donor, fumigation, Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS), museology, patron, and registrar.

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