Director, Paper and Book Conservation

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Art Institute of Chicago
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Tuesday, 15 February, 2022 - 10:00

Reporting to the Associate Vice President and Grainger Executive Director of Conservation and Science, the incumbent plans and directs the work of Paper and Book Conservation. This position establishes procedures for collection care, treatment, framing, mounting, installation, research and examination of all paper, book and archives material in the museum collection. The position supervises a team of eight in Paper and Book conservation, and is responsible for managing staff, hiring, performance review, staff development and support. The role sets and manages the budget and is responsible for the operations and maintenance of the paper and book conservation laboratories and related equipment.

This role also manages conservation documentation, and establishes workflows and recommendations pertaining to loans, exhibitions, storage, handling, transport, acquisition and deaccession of paper, books and archives collections. Sets standards for conservation based upon knowledge of works of art and of conservation best practices and is expected to maintain an active treatment and/or research profile. Contributes to national and international dialogues on the stewardship and research of paper-based materials. Engages with the public, scholars and peers to disseminate the research and activities of Paper and Book Conservation. This position also participates in initiatives to advance the broader Conservation and Science department, including fundraising and digital initiatives. This Senior leadership position is committed to advancing the museum’s mission and is actively engaged in fostering a diverse, inclusive, and equitable work environment.

Primary Responsibilities:

Directs and plans the operations of Paper and Book Conservation in consultation with the Executive Director of Conservation and Science for all activities related to the permanent collection, exhibitions, loans, acquisitions and deaccessions.

Supervises the activities of the Paper and Book Conservation staff, as well as preparation, mounting and framing: assigns and supervises projects, tracks and documents activities to guide planning and generates annual reports. Actively engages in hiring, performance management and the professional development of the team.

Works with the Grainger Executive Director of Conservation and Science to establish and manage the departmental budget.

Works with the appropriate curator and Executive Director of Conservation and Science to set treatment priorities for paper, book and archives collections and carry out treatments using the most up to date methods and materials. Approves treatment and framing proposals for works of art on paper, books and archives materials, assigns projects and responsibilities, and supervises the work. Oversees the work required for major rotations of the collection.

Develops long range plans for the Paper and Book Conservation department in regard to staffing, equipment and facilities to meet collection needs.

Develops, prioritizes and manages short and long-term research projects focused on the treatment or study of the materials and techniques of works on paper and books.

Is conversant with recent technologies in the field, supervises the use of in-depth examination methods, and provides recommendations for equipment maintenance and upgrades.

Oversees the conservation requirements for an active program of exhibitions and loans.

Maintains institutional and professional standards for safe handling, storage, installation, packing and shipping of objects in coordination with Registrars, Art Handlers, departmental technicians, and curatorial staff. Provides guidance on the environmental needs of the collection of works of art on paper, books and archive materials as regards humidity and temperature control, lighting, air quality, integrated pest management etc. in galleries and art storage vaults.

Develops awareness within and outside the museum of the importance, shared responsibilities, and needs of art conservation through public programs, blogs, media interviews and other means.

Travels to attend conferences, present papers and confer with colleagues.

Publishes results of research projects in Museum publications, social media, and journals aimed at both professional and general audiences.

Maintains all conservation documentation pertaining to the collection in accordance with the highest archival and digital preservation standards.

Supports the museum in its commitment to creating a diverse, inclusive, and equitable institution; treats colleagues and visitors fairly and respectfully, recognizing the value that diverse backgrounds and perspectives bring to our organization.


The ideal candidate should be a graduate of a recognized conservation training program or possess commensurate experience. Minimum of 10 years of post-graduate experience is required. Proven expertise in the treatment of a wide range of drawing and printing media, papers and /or books including major and complex treatments. The candidate should be able to demonstrate previous experience and ability in directing teams, building long-term cross-departmental relationships and possess excellent verbal and written communication skills as demonstrated by a track record of publications and presentations. Should demonstrate proficiency with a variety of software platforms for administration, project management and image processing. Embraces the museum’s commitment to creating an inclusive and equitable institution. Previous management experience preferred.

Candidates should submit their resume, two references, a cover letter detailing the candidate’s interest and qualifications in applying for the position, along with one sample of a relevant publication, and a portfolio with two or three examples of projects (please attach all as one document when uploading).

Application Deadline: February 15, 2022. Applications will continue to be reviewed until the position is filled.
**Please apply at: **

Vaccination Expectation

Becoming vaccinated against COVID-19 is the most important contribution we as individuals can make to ensure our own safety and the safety of our museum and school community. All employees must complete an attestation and provide proof of their vaccination status, or request a medical or religious exemption within the first week of employment.

The Art Institute of Chicago is an equal opportunity, equal access employer fully committed to achieving a diverse and inclusive workplace. We believe in a staff culture that benefits from a wide range of experience, backgrounds, and career paths, and we encourage nontraditional candidates to apply.