Conservators do research to learn more about NPS objects, treatment options, and to develop new treatments. Research can be done at any point in the conservation process: examination, stabilization, and restoration.

Background research uses documentary evidence found in sources such as reports, books, and photographs to learn more about the history of the object and others like it. This type of research helps explain the current condition of the object by understanding what was done to it in the past.

Materials and technology research uses tools such as microscopes, x-ray machines, and more "high-tech" equipment like scanning electron microscopes and CAT scans to identify materials that objects are made from and construction details hidden inside objects. Questions a conservator might ask include:

  • What type of metal is this object made from?
  • How many times was this object painted?
  • What's inside this hollow object?
  • How are the pieces of this object attached?
  • What's under this corrosion layer?
  • What is this fabric made from?

Conservators also do research to develop new techniques and adopt newly available materials for use in treatments. For example, a conservator might test various types of adhesives to find the one that works best for leather.

Conservation scientists are specialists who help conservators answer these questions. Conservation scientists also carry out basic research into many different aspects of deterioration and treatments that help conservators devise better treatment strategies. There are many other questions that a conservator might ask, but they are all aimed at understanding the object and how to preserve it for the future.