Career Focus: Conserving our Heritage

  • Posted: Jun 24, 2014

Careers in scarce museum skills came into focus recently, when the Iziko South African National Gallery with the Centre for Curating the Archive at the Michaelis School of Fine Art, University of Cape Town, hosted a Conservation Week with 14 BA (Honours) in Curatorship students from UCT.The week was made possible with generous support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

“Conservation of our national heritage is one of the most important roles undertaken by Iziko Museums of South Africa”, says Iziko CEO, Rooksana Omar. During the Conservation Week, which was held from 26 to 30 May 2014, the students visited three Iziko sites, and looked at preventive conservation, including environmental concerns, examination of works, and overall care of collections.

Seven invited professionals presented talks, and exceptional support was kindly provided by many Iziko professionals in preparation for and during the week. Conservation of paintings, wood, works on paper and frames were discussed, and practical training was provided. Behind-the-scenes tours of the Iziko South AfricanMuseum and the Iziko photographic studio were also included.

Besides the Curatorship students, five Iziko and other outside professionals who contributed during the week also benefited from the Conservation Week. These Conservators, a Collections Manager, Gallery volunteer and conservation intern attended either parts or all of the week.

During final discussions, many of the Honours students expressed how much they would have liked a second week.

If you are interested in a career in curatorship, read more about the programme in curatorship offered by the UCT Michaelis School of Fine Art at

The grant of $182,400 from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundationwill greatly enhance the care and conservation of our paintings, especially those in Iziko Art and Social History Collections. The conservation of historical paintings, which include the Michaelis Collection, Sir Abe Bailey Collection and William Fehr Collection, will be a priority, but attention will also be given to South African, modern and contemporary paintings. The grant will also be used to purchase specialised equipment, such as a stereo-microscope and infra-red camera; to improve storage facilities for the larger paintings in the collections; and to bring international specialists to Iziko to conduct training workshops and to share expertise. 

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