Code of Ethics and Guidelines for Practice;
Code of Ethics and Guidelines for Practice;
Code of Ethics and Guidelines for Practice;
The first formulation of standards of practice and professional relations by any group of art
conservators was produced by the IIC-American Group (now AIC) Committee on
Professional Standards and Procedures. Formed at the second regular meeting of the IICAG, in Detroit, May 23, 1961, the committee worked under the direction of Murray Pease,
conservator, Metropolitan Museum of Art; other members of the committee were Henri H.
Courtais, Dudley T. Easby, Rutherford J. Gettens, and Sheldon Keck. The Report of the
Murray Pease Committee: IIC American Group Standards of Practice and Professional
Relations for Conservators was adopted by the IIC-AG at the 4th annual meeting in New
York on June 8, 1963. It was published in Studies in Conservation in August 1964, 9(3):116–
21. The primary purpose of this document was: “to provide accepted criteria against which
a specific procedure or operation can be measured when a question as to its adequacy has
The first formulation of a code of ethics for art conservators was adopted by the members of
IIC-American Group at the annual meeting in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, on May 27, 1967. It
was produced by the Committee on Professional Relations: Sheldon Keck, chair; Richard D.
Buck; Dudley T. Easby; Rutherford J. Gettens; Caroline Keck; Peter Michaels, and Louis
Pomerantz. The primary purpose of this document was: “to express those principles and
practices which will guide the art conservator in the ethical practice of his profession.”
These two documents, The Murray Pease Report: Standards of Practice and Professional
Relationships for Conservators and the Code of Ethics for Art Conservators were published in
booklet form by the IIC-AG in May 1968 together with the Articles of Association of IIC and
Bylaws of the American Group.
In 1977, the Ethics and Standards Committee (Elisabeth C. G. Packard, chair; Barbara H.
Beardsley; Perry C. Huston; Kate C. Lefferts; Robert M. Organ; and Clements L. Robertson)
was charged with updating the two documents to reflect changes in the profession. The
1968 format was retained, except that the more general Code of Ethics was placed first as
Part One, followed by the Standards of Practice as Part Two. These revised versions of the
code and standards were approved by the Fellows of AIC on May 31, 1979, at the annual
meeting in Toronto. This document was amended on May 24, 1985, at the annual meeting in
Washington, D.C., to reflect the addition to the AIC Bylaws of procedures for the reporting,
investigation, and review of alleged violations of the code and standards and of mechanisms
for appealing such allegations.
Between 1984 and 1990 the Ethics and Standards Committee, responding to further growth
and change in the profession, and following on several years of AIC discussion on the issue
of certification, was charged by the AIC Board to work on more substantial revisions of the
document. This was done by soliciting commentary from the specialty groups and also from
the membership via issues sessions at the annual meetings in Chicago (1986) and Cincinnati
(1989). Following this, a document consisting of a new simplified Code, prepared by the
committee, and a revised Standards, prepared primarily by the board was presented to the
membership for discussion at the 1990 annual meeting in Richmond. The consensus of the
membership at the meeting was to continue the revision process. During these important
years, the members of the committee were, Elisabeth Batchelor, chair; Robert Futernick;
Meg Loew Craft (until 1989); Elizabeth Lunning (from 1987); Carol C. Mancusi-Ungaro; and
Philip Vance (until 1986). In 1989, the committee added corresponding members Barbara
Appelbaum, Paul N. Banks, Steven Prins, and Elisabeth West FitzHugh.
In 1990, the AIC Board charged a newly appointed committee to assess the role and use of
the two parts of the Code of Ethics and Standards for Practice and as well to analyze specific
difficulties within them. The committee first undertook an in-depth comparative analysis of
the two sections, organizing them topically and relating them to other codes of ethics both
in conservation and in other professions. Between September 1991 and May 1992, the
committee produced five lengthy discussion papers son basic issues as supplements to the
AIC News (prior to November 1991, the AIC Newsletter).
From these papers, the committee compiled an extensive body of commentary from the
membership and specialty groups, supplementing that obtained previously. It then began
the creation of a new revision of the entire document, the first draft of which was published
in the September 1993 AIC News following a discussion session at the 1993 annual meeting
in Denver. A revised draft was published in the May 1994 AIC News and discussed at the
1994 annual meeting in Nashville.
The final version of the document, consisting of a new simplified Code of Ethics and the
creation of Guidelines for Practice to replace the Standards of Practice, was prepared and
approved by AIC Fellows and Professional Associates through a mail vote in August 1994.
The goals and purposes of the committee and the problematic issues it sought to address in
creating the revised document are fully described in the committee’s columns in the
September 1991 AIC Newsletter and September 1993 AIC News.
Ethics and Standards Committee members from 1990 through 1994 and involved in the
creation of the revised Code and Guidelines were: Debbie Hess Norris (chair, resigned 1993);
Donna K. Strahan (co-chair 1993–94, chair 1994); Carol Aiken (co-chair from 1993,
resigned 1994); Nancy Ash; Dan Kushel; Robert Espinosa (from 1993); and Paul
Himmelstein (from 1994).
An integral part of the revision plan was also to initiate the creation of a second document,
Commentaries to the Guidelines for Practice, upon final approval of the Code and Guidelines.
Proposed to the committee by then AIC President Paul Himmelstein, this document was
designed to amplify and define current accepted practice for each of the Guidelines while
accommodating the individual needs of each area of professional specialization, and as well,
allowing for future growth and change in practice through a simplified amendment process.
Among core documents of professional conservation organizations, the AIC Commentaries
The creation of the Commentaries began in 1995, with full involvement of all AIC Specialty
Groups and the Ethics and Standards Committee. The working process is fully described in
the March 1995 AIC News. A Commentaries Task Force chaired by Paul Himmelstein was
created in 1999 to further facilitate the process. The first Commentaries (24-28 on
documentation) were approved by the Board in 1996. The final Commentaries, completing
the set for all twenty-nine Guidelines, were finished in 2000 and approved by the AIC Board
in May 2001.
Major revisions of Commentaries 24 and 28, to accommodate the transition to digital
documentation in conservation practice, were developed by the AIC Digital Photographic
Documentation Task Force chaired by Jeffrey Warda and were approved by the AIC Board
in 2008. A detailed discussion of these revisions appears in Jeffrey Warda, ed. The AIC Guide
to Photography and Conservation Documentation, Second Edition, 2011, chapter 5, part 6.
Historical background prepared by:
• Elisabeth C. G. Packard, Chair, Ethics and Standards Committee 1977-79
Amended May 24, 1985
• Revised August 1994; Revised and amended February 2015, Dan Kushel, member
(1990-94) and Chair, Ethics and Standards Committee 1995-96
The primary goal of conservation professionals, individuals with extensive training and
special expertise is the preservation of cultural property. Cultural property consists of
individual objects, structures, or aggregate collections. It is material which has significance
that may be artistic, historical, scientific, religious, or social, and it is an invaluable and
an irreplaceable legacy that must be preserved for future generations.
In striving to achieve this goal, conservation professionals assume certain obligations to the
cultural property, to its owners and custodians, to the conservation profession, and to
society as a whole. This document, the Code of Ethics and Guidelines for Practice of the
American Institute for Conservation of Historic & Artistic Works (AIC), sets forth the
principles that guide conservation professionals and others who are involved in the care of
The conservation professional should use the following Guidelines and supplemental
Commentaries together with the AIC Code of Ethics in the pursuit of ethical practice. The
Commentaries are separate documents, created by the AIC membership, that are intended to
amplify this document and to accommodate growth and change in the field.
GUIDELINES FOR PRACTICE OF THE AMERICAN INSTITUTE FOR CONSERVATION
1. Conduct: Adherence to the Code of Ethics and Guidelines for Practice is a matter of
personal responsibility. The conservation professional should always be guided by
the intent of this document, recognizing that specific circumstances may
legitimately affect professional decisions.
2. Disclosure: In professional relationships, the conservation professional should
share complete and accurate information relating to the efficacy and value of
materials and procedures. In seeking and disclosing such information, and that
relating to analysis and research, the conservation professional should recognize
the importance of published information that has undergone formal peer review.
3. Laws and Regulations: The conservation professional should be cognizant of laws
and regulations that may have a bearing on professional activity. Among these laws
and regulations are those concerning the rights of artists and their estates,
occupational health and safety, sacred and religious material, excavated objects,
endangered species, human remains, and stolen property.
4. Practice: Regardless of the nature of employment, the conservation professional
should follow appropriate standards for safety, security, contracts, fees, and
4a. Health and Safety: The conservation professional should be aware of issues
concerning the safety of materials and procedures and should make this
information available to others, as appropriate.
4b. Security: The conservation professional should provide working and storage
conditions designed to protect cultural property.
4c. Contracts: The conservation professional may enter into contractual
agreements with individuals, institutions, businesses, or government agencies
provided that such agreements do not conflict with principles of the Code of Ethics
and Guidelines for Practice.
4d. Fees: Fees charged by the conservation professional should be commensurate
with services rendered. The division of a fee is acceptable only when based on the
division of service or responsibility.
4e. Advertising: Advertising and other representations by the conservation
professional should present an accurate description of credentials and services.
Limitations concerning the use of the AIC name or membership status should be
followed as stated in the AIC Bylaws, section II, 13.
5. Communication: Communication between the conservation professional and the
owner, custodian, or authorized agent of the cultural property is essential to ensure
an agreement that reflects shared decisions and realistic expectations.
6. Consent: The conservation professional should act only with the consent of the
owner, custodian, or authorized agent. The owner, custodian, or agent should be
informed of any circumstances that necessitate significant deviations from the
agreement. When possible, notification should be made before such changes are
7. Confidentiality: Except as provided in the Code of Ethics and Guidelines for
Practice, the conservation professional should consider relationships with an
owner, custodian, or authorized agent as confidential. Information derived from
examination, scientific investigation, or treatment of the cultural property should
not be published or otherwise made public without written permission.
8. Supervision: The conservation professional is responsible for work delegated to
other professionals, students, interns, volunteers, subordinates, or agents and
assignees. Work should not be delegated or subcontracted unless the conservation
professional can supervise the work directly, can ensure proper supervision, or has
sufficient knowledge of the practitioner to be confident of the quality of the work.
When appropriate, the owner, custodian, or agent should be informed if such
delegation is to occur.
9. Education: Within the limits of knowledge, ability, time, and facilities, the
conservation professional is encouraged to become involved in the education of
conservation personnel. The objectives and obligations of the parties shall be
agreed upon mutually.
10. Consultation: Since no individual can be expert in every aspect of conservation, it
may be appropriate to consult with colleagues or, in some instances, to refer the
owner, custodian, or authorized agent to a professional who is more experienced
or better equipped to accomplish the required work. If the owner requests a
second opinion, this request must be respected.
11. Recommendations and References: The conservation professional should not
provide recommendations without direct knowledge of a colleague’s competence
and experience. Any reference to the work of others must be based on facts and
personal knowledge rather than on hearsay.
12. Adverse Commentary: A conservation professional may be required to testify in
legal, regulatory, or administrative proceedings concerning allegations of unethical
conduct. Testimony concerning such matters should be given at these proceedings
or in connection with paragraph 13 of these Guidelines.
13. Misconduct: Allegations of unethical conduct should be reported in writing to the
AIC president as described in the AIC Bylaws, section II, 12. As stated in the bylaws,
all correspondence regarding alleged unethical conduct shall be held in the strictest
confidence. Violations of the Code and Guidelines that constitute unethical conduct
may result in disciplinary action.
14. Conflict of Interest: The conservation professional should avoid situations in
which there is a potential for a conflict of interest that may affect the quality of
work, lead to the dissemination of false information, or give the appearance of
15. Related Professional Activities: The conservation professional should be
especially mindful of the considerable potential for conflict of interest in activities
such as authentication, appraisal, or art dealing.
EXAMINATION AND SCIENTIFIC INVESTIGATION
16. Justification: Careful examination of cultural property forms the basis for all
future action by the conservation professional. Before undertaking any
examination or tests that may cause change to cultural property, the conservation
professional should establish the necessity for such procedures.
17. Sampling and Testing: Prior consent must be obtained from the owner, custodian,
or agent before any material is removed from a cultural property. Only the
minimum required should be removed, and a record of removal must be made.
When appropriate, the material removed should be retained.
18. Interpretation: Declarations of age, origin, or authenticity should be made only
when based on sound evidence.
19. Scientific Investigation: The conservation professional should follow accepted
scientific standards and research protocols.
20. Preventive Conservation: The conservation professional should recognize the
critical importance of preventive conservation as the most effective means of
promoting the long-term preservation of cultural property. The conservation
professional should provide guidelines for continuing use and care, recommend
appropriate environmental conditions for storage and exhibition, and encourage
proper procedures for handling, packing, and transport.
21. Suitability: The conservation professional performs within a continuum of care
and will rarely be the last entrusted with the conservation of a cultural property.
The conservation professional should only recommend or undertake treatment
that is judged suitable to the preservation of the aesthetic, conceptual, and physical
characteristics of the cultural property. When nonintervention best serves to
promote the preservation of the cultural property, it may be appropriate to
recommend that no treatment be performed.
22. Materials and Methods: The conservation professional is responsible for choosing
materials and methods appropriate to the objectives of each specific treatment and
consistent with currently accepted practice. The advantages of the materials and
methods chosen must be balanced against their potential adverse effects on future
examination, scientific investigation, treatment, and function.
23. Compensation for Loss: Any intervention to compensate for loss should be
documented in treatment records and reports and should be detectable by
common examination methods. Such compensation should be reversible and
should not falsely modify the known aesthetic, conceptual, and physical
characteristics of the cultural property, especially by removing or obscuring
24. Documentation: The conservation professional has an obligation to produce and
maintain accurate, complete, and permanent records of examination, sampling,
scientific investigation, and treatment. When appropriate, the records should be
both written and pictorial. The kind and extent of documentation may vary
according to the circumstances, the nature of the object, or whether an individual
object or a collection is to be documented. The purposes of such documentation
o to establish the condition of cultural property;
o to aid in the care of cultural property by providing information helpful to
future treatment and by adding to the profession’s body of knowledge;
o to aid the owner, custodian, or authorized agent and society as a whole in
the appreciation and use of cultural property by increasing understanding of
an object’s aesthetic, conceptual, and physical characteristics; and
o to aid the conservation professional by providing a reference that can assist
in the continued development of knowledge and by supplying records that
can help avoid misunderstanding and unnecessary litigation.
25. Documentation of Examination: Before any intervention, the conservation
professional should make a thorough examination of the cultural property and
create appropriate records. These records and the reports derived from them must
identify the cultural property and include the date of examination and the name of
the examiner. They also should include, as appropriate, a description of structure,
materials, condition, and pertinent history.
26. Treatment Plan: Following examination and before treatment, the conservation
professional should prepare a plan describing the course of treatment. This plan
should also include the justification for and the objectives of treatment, alternative
approaches, if feasible, and the potential risks. When appropriate, this plan should
be submitted as a proposal to the owner, custodian, or authorized agent.
27. Documentation of Treatment: During treatment, the conservation professional
should maintain dated documentation that includes a record or description of
techniques or procedures involved, materials used and their composition, the
nature and extent of all alterations, and any additional information revealed or
otherwise ascertained. A report prepared from these records should summarize
this information and provide, as necessary, recommendations for subsequent care.
28. Preservation of Documentation: Documentation is an invaluable part of the
history of cultural property and should be produced and maintained in as
permanent a manner as practicable. Copies of reports of examination and
treatment must be given to the owner, custodian, or authorized agent, who should
be advised of the importance of maintaining these materials with the cultural
property. Documentation is also an important part of the profession’s body of
knowledge. The conservation professional should strive to preserve these records
and give other professionals appropriate access to them, when access does not
contravene agreements regarding confidentiality.
29. Emergency Situations: Emergency situations can pose serious risks of damage to
or loss of cultural property that may warrant immediate intervention on the part of
the conservation professional. In an emergency that threatens cultural property,
the conservation professional should take all reasonable action to preserve the
cultural property, recognizing that strict adherence to the Guidelines for Practice
may not be possible.
Amendments: Proposed amendments to the Code of Ethics and Guidelines for Practice must
be initiated by petition to the AIC Board of Directors from at least five members who are
Fellows or Professional Associates of AIC. The board will direct the appropriate committee
to prepare the amendments for vote in accordance with procedures described in Section VII
of the Bylaws. Acceptance of amendments or changes must be affirmed by at least two-thirds of all AIC Fellows and Professional Associates voting.
Commentaries are prepared or amended by specialty groups, task forces, and appropriate
committees of AIC. A review process shall be undergone before final approval by the AIC
Board of Directors.
*Revised August 1994