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Val Tomlinson


In 2009 Val left the Canadian Arctic, where she’d been working for five years, to join the Museum as a conservator.  Her highly specialised role involves providing expert physical care to improve and preserve the Museum’s collections now and for future generations.

Val’s work focuses on treatments and preventive conservation. She also assists with enquiries about artefacts, loans to other Museums, exhibitions and our public programmes.

“While I loved living in the Arctic, it wasn’t an intellectual place. Working at the Museum is the polar opposite. There are artistic, cultural and intellectual events happening at the Museum all the time. The after-hours culture events are an example - I love the ‘LATE at the Museum’ nights.

“Another thing I love about working at the Museum is my job. Being a conservator is the best profession in the universe. Think of all the cool things you go to a museum to look at. Well, I get to touch and handle them. Every day I get to work with history, hands on, and make it last a little longer for everyone. No two days are similar. You never work on the same thing twice. Because it’s hands-on work, at the end of the day you can point to something and say ‘I did that!’ And when there are media stories on things you’ve worked on, you can say to yourself ‘I helped to look after that thing’ and feel happy about it.”

Interested in conservation?

Conservation is a specialist profession that commonly involves gaining trade/technical certification and tertiary qualifications, often including a Master of Arts degree. It’s not uncommon for a conservator to obtain a PhD in their field of expertise.

While many conservators come from the arts side and pick up chemistry later, Val’s journey was a little different.  She started off studying chemistry at undergrad level, and then studied fine arts, archaeology, history and art history. After that she undertook a Masters of Arts in Conservation. Val points out that although there are art conservation programmes available at the technical institute level in some countries, gaining a masters qualification is necessary to access the best job opportunities.