"Archivist" versus "Conservator"

Often either title describes a very similar job that depends on the situation as well as organization that holds the collection.

A conservator focuses on preserving the state of an object to when it entered collection. This is done with research, documentation, and treatments that can be reversed in the future. The preservation of a collection is a shared goal of an archivists or conservator. But the archivist will likely be dealing with elements that were used to create a media object, not just a fixed final state of an object.

An archivist strives for the preservation of media objects, original order, and advocates for maintaining aspects of media, such as technical limitations inherent from the time of its making, as being key to the integrity of the original. In cases where the media itself is subject to update or alteration, such as when I'm working within an artist studio or post-production facility, I view the role as being an archivist rather than a conservator, as the state of an artwork may still be in a state of flux.


Magnetic Tape
Media Files
Hard Drives
Legacy Disks
Obsolete Code


  • Collection survey and assessment of format and metadata in collection
  • Identification of formats at risk for obsolescence or likely degradation due to inherent vice and/or storage conditions
  • Creation of detailed inventory, database creation, and/or integration of data into existing databases
  • Migration of media to sustainable digital preservation standards and recommendation of specialized vendors for a medium
  • Consultation on storage of physical carriers, digital media storage, and digital preservation recommendations
  • Creation of software emulation for artwork or interactive programs built in obsolete operating systems or plug-ins
  • Writing of detailed collection assessments, conservation treatments, and research papers