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The difference between Curators and Restorers of artworks

The difference between curators and restorers of artistic and historical works

Curators and restorers both work in the field of preservation and maintenance of works of art, but they have different roles. Curators are responsible for collecting, organizing, and displaying works, while conservators are responsible for protecting and restoring damaged works. Although these two positions are related, they have important differences that we will review together.
Both curators and conservators work in museums or places where there are works of art, artifacts, and preservation of these items.
Curators are people who maintain, manage, present, and study works of art. They confirm works of art as part of a body of work created by a specific artist or created during a specific period. In contrast, restorers work directly with the item and determine if it is still in good condition or needs repair.
In addition, curators manage the individuals, the public, the institutions that support the collection, and the people who work directly in the museum. The curator, who is often the director of the museum, also guides the restorers. On the other hand, conservators only manage items and how they are maintained.
Curators research the work or collection while conservators and restorers are knowledgeable about preservation techniques.
In addition to work experience, most curators have a master’s degree or a doctorate in humanities. A master’s degree is also required for a restorer along with in-depth knowledge of old and new preservation techniques, and archeology as well as experience.

The role of curators:

The main duties of curators are to acquire, manage, and display works of art. They collect works through purchase, donation, or loan from private owners. Then they organize the works in a way that is accessible, attractive, and understandable for the visitors. Curators also plan and run exhibitions and educational programs to introduce visitors to a variety of artworks and collections.

Skills needed by curators

Curators should have the following knowledge and skills:

Knowledge of research, art, culture, history, and society
Research and writing skills
Communication and interaction skills
Organization and management skills

The role of restorers:

Restorers are responsible for the maintenance and preservation of damaged works. They evaluate the works to determine their condition and then determine and implement appropriate methods for their protection and restoration. Restorers use various techniques such as cleaning, stabilization, and restoration to preserve works.

Skills needed by restorers

Restorers must have the following knowledge and skills:

Knowledge of art materials and techniques
Technical and manual skills
Problem solving and decision making skills
Skills to work with tools and equipment

Key differences between curators and restorers:

The key difference between curators and restorers is in their job descriptions, workplaces, and their main role about works of art. A curator usually deals with a large number of works of art and tries to collect and organize collections of works of art of an artist or collections that have a content and thematic connection. But a restorer of art and historical works deals with the work of art in a single and separate form and tries to restore and preserve the work from destruction.
A curator usually works in the galleries and the administrative department of museums and directly monitors the exhibition hall and the research archive of the works, but a restorer works in the museum laboratory and needs equipment and facilities to work on It has works.
Curators interact with audiences and owners of collections and galleries and also establish direct connections with viewers of works, critics, and artists. While the restorers are more related to the works of art and art history and other colleagues are related to the preservation and purchase of works.

Comparison table of curators and restorers





Collecting, organizing, and displaying works

Protection and restoration of damaged works

Required skills knowledge in the field of history, art, culture, and society; research and writing skills; communication and interaction skills; Organization and management skills

Knowledge of art materials and techniques; technical and manual skills; problem-solving and decision-making skills; Skills to work with tools and equipment


Galleries, Museums

Museums or Restoration laboratoriesProperty

Examples of curators’ work

Collecting works through purchase, donation, or loan
Organization of works in collections
Preparing and managing the installation of works for exhibitions
Planning and implementation of educational programs
Writing articles and books about works

Examples of restoration work

Assessment of the condition of damaged works
Determining appropriate methods for the protection and restoration of works
Carrying out protection and restoration operations
Training people in the field of restoration of works


Both curators and restorers play an important role in the preservation and maintenance of artistic and historical works. Curators collect and display works for visitors to enjoy. Restorers restore damaged works to preserve them for future generations.
The presence of both roles has a significant place in the preservation of our artistic and cultural heritage. By working together, they introduce artistic and cultural works to society and preserve them for future generations.

To read more, refer to the following sources:

  • China, Li Yufei. Visual and practical thinking of curators [J]. Art Literature, 2019 (1): 15-18.
  •  Japan, Toshio SasakiChina, Shen Yan, Shen Meihua Translated. The curatorial era [M]. Beijing: CITIC Publishing House, 2015: 141.
  •  China, Peng Feng.Concept, Culture, and Experiment——Several Experiences in Planning the China Pavilion of the 54th Venice International Art Biennale [J] .Art Review, 2011 (10): 28-32.
  • China, Liu Xiangjuan.The Parallel Art World and Post-Cold War Order at the La Biennale di Venezia[J] .Arts and Design, 2019 (8): 108-111.
  •  France, Althusser, China, and Chen Yue translated. Philosophy and Politics: Althusser Reader [M]. Jilin People’s Publishing House, 2011: 329.
  •  China, Liu Xintian.On the Position of the Curator in the Art Ecosystem Using Abrams Schema as a Reference [J].QI Lu Yiyuan, 2018, (02): 107-111.
  • U.S.A, Vera. Zolberg, China, Yuan Bailing translated. Construct the sociology of art [M]. Nanjing: Yilin Publishing House, 2018 Vol 65.
  • China, Huang Hairong.The role and development of independent curators in the cultural industry [J].Journal of Hubei Institute of Technology, 2018, (02): 102-105.

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