For 300 years, conservation and preservation have been significant role in the Ashmolean Museum. Early in the museum’s history there were discussions about air quality in galleries. The founder, Elias Ashmole, was concerned with environmental conditions when he specified that ventilation shafts in the form of chimneys should be installed in the museum building.
Restoration in one form or another has been carried out on parts of the collection for centuries. Historic techniques were not necessarily different to the approach taken today. An example is the Arundel Marbles which were restored in the 1880s. This historic restoration was largely sympathetic to the original material, meaning that in a conservation project in the 1990s a large proportion of the older treatments was retained.
In 1905 the Ashmolean established its first purpose-built conservation laboratory for the department of Antiquities. Further conservation posts were created in the Museum's Cast Gallery and in the Eastern and Western Art Departments during the century.
In 1999, the individual conservators were brought together to form the Department of Conservation to serve the whole museum. 
A conservation studio for works of art on paper was opened in 2004, and in 2009 a suite of new conservation studios opened for the conservation of paintings, objects, textiles and preventive conservation.