A compilation of important heritage conservation charters

Charters and conventions are extremely useful to conservators and managers of cultural heritage. In them, we can find valuable guidelines on how to manoeuvre complicated matters such as when to conserve or restore and when to remove old restorations.

In some cases, conservation work and investigations can even lead to finding out that certain objects have dubious, possibly illegal provenances. Charters and conventions help us navigate the various aspects of dealing with cultural heritage at the international scale. They can also be used to justify grants and funding requests at both external and internal institutional levels.

I will not be including documents on intangible cultural heritage here. I hope this list on the main heritage conservation charters and documents helps you in your research and goals.



Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict

  • 1954
  • Set out a minimum level of protection for cultural property regardless of conflict and occupation.

First Protocol for the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict

  • 1954
  • Prohibits the export of movable cultural property during territorial occupation and forbids the retention of cultural property as war reparations.

Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property

  • 1970
  • Encourages States to prevent the illegal transfer of cultural property by enforcing appropriate documentation of items, procedures for legal transport of objects and criminal inditement of transgressors.

Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage

  • 1972
  • Signing countries pledge to defend and protect their cultural and natural heritage.
  • It determines the uses and management of the World Heritage Fund.

Convention on the Protection of the Archaeological, Historical and Artistic Heritage of the American Nations (Convention of San Salvador)

  • 1976
  • To "identify, register, protect, and safeguard the property making up the cultural heritage of the American nations in order: (a) to prevent illegal exportation or importation of cultural property; and (b) to promote cooperation among the American states for mutual awareness and appreciation of their cultural property."

UNIDROIT Convention on Stolen or Ilegally Exported Cultural Objects

  • 1995
  • Sets out the application of laws for stolen or illegaly exported cultural objects.

Second Protocol for the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict

  • 1999
  • "The Second Protocol further elaborates the provisions of the Convention relating to safeguarding of and respect for cultural property and the conduct of hostilities; thereby providing greater protection than before."

UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage

  • 2001
  • "Sets out basic principles for the protection of underwater cultural heritage
  • Provides a detailed State cooperation system
  • Provides widely recognized practical rules for the treatment and research of underwater cultural heritage."


The Athens Charter for the Restoration of Historic Monuments

  • 1931
  • International organizations for Restoration on operational and advisory levels are to be established.
  • Proposed Restoration projects are to be subjected to knowledgeable criticism to prevent mistakes which will cause loss of character and historical values to the structures.
  • Problems of preservation of historic sites are to be solved by legislation at national level for all countries.
  • Excavated sites which are not subject to immediate restoration should be reburied for protection.
  • Modern techniques and materials may be used in restoration work.
  • Historical sites are to be given strict custodial protection.
  • Attention should be given to the protection of areas surrounding historic sites.

The Venice Charter: International Charter for the Conservation and Restoration of Monuments and Sites

  • 1964
  • Foundational document
  • Provides guidelines and an international framework for the conservation of historic buildings.

The Florence Charter for Historic Gardens

  • 1982
  • Guidelines for the preservation of historic gardens.

The Washington Charter: Charter for the Conservation of Historic Towns and Urban Areas

  • 1987
  • "This charter concerns historic urban areas, large and small, including cities, towns and historic centres or quarters, together with their natural and man-made environments."

Charter for the protection and management of the archaeological heritage

  • 1990
  • Icludes guidelines for policies for the protection of archaeological heritage.

Charter on the protection and management of underwater cultural heritage

  • 1996
  • Intended to "encourage the protection and management of underwater cultural heritage in inland and inshore waters, in shallow seas and in the deep oceans."

The Burra Charter for Places of Cultural Significance

  • 1999
  • Foundational document
  • "...provides guidance for the conservation and management of places of cultural significance (cultural heritage places), and is based on the knowledge and experience of Australia ICOMOS members."

Charter on the Built Vernacular Heritage (Mexico)

  • 1999
  • For the protection of vernacular buildings as expressions of the local culture of a community.

The Charter of Krakow: Principles for conservation and restoration of built heritage

  • 2000
  • Relates to architectural conservation.

ICOMOS Charter – Principles for the analysis, conservation and structural restoration of architectural heritage

  • 2003
  • Relates to architectural conservation.
  • "Conservation, reinforcement and restoration of architectural heritage requires a multi-disciplinary approach."

ICOMOS Principles for the preservation and conservation/restoration of wall paintings

  • 2003
  • Contains articles on protection policies, investigation, documentation, preventive conservation, maintenance and site Management, restorations, emergency measures, research and public information, professional qualifications and training, traditions of renewal, and international cooperation.

Declarations and manifestos

The SPAB Manifesto: The Principals of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings as Set Forth upon its Foundation

  • 1877
  • Foundational document in the conservation of monuments and historic buildings
  • Recommends protection and preservation rather than thoughtless restoration (which the Victorians loved to do)

UNESCO Declaration concerning the Intentional Destruction of Cultural Heritage

  • 2003
  • States should take all appropriate measures to prevent, avoid, stop and suppress acts of intentional destruction of cultural heritage, wherever such heritage is located.


Recommendations of the Madrid Conference

  • 1904
  • Aimed at architectural conservation.
  • Emphasizes minimal intervention, functional use and restorations in line with original style.
  • For citation purposes, review the original document: The Architectural Journal. Being the Journal of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Vol. XI. Third Series, 1904. pp. 343-346.

Recommendation on International Principles Applicable to Archaeological Excavations

  • 1956
  • Most importantly for conservation activities, these Recommendations include making conservation of the site and its associated objects part of the deed of concession to excavate. It also recommends supervising the restoration of archaeological remains and prohibiting removal of monuments without consent.

Recommendation Concerning the Safeguarding of the Beauty and Character of Landscapes and Sites

  • 1962
  • Considers the beauty and character of landscapes and sites as "necessary to the life of men for whom they represent a powerful physical, moral and spiritual regenerating influence, while at the same time contributing to the artistic and cultural life of peoples, as innumerable and universally known examples bear witness"
  • "Measures taken for the safeguarding of landscapes and sites should be both preventive and corrective"

Recommendation on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Export, Import and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property

  • 1964
  • Recommends members states to have national inventories of cultural property, establishing national services to prevent illegal exports, and developing certification processes for authorised exports.

Recommendation concerning the Preservation of Cultural Property Endangered by Public or Private works

  • 1968
  • Recommends creating and maintaining inventories of cultural properties.
  • States should protect/salvage cultural property through: (a) Legislation; (b) Finance; (c) Administrative measures; Procedures to preserve and to salvage cultural property; (e) Penalties; (f) Repairs; (g) Awards; (h) Advice; (i) Educational programmes.

Recommendation concerning the Protection, at National Level, of the Cultural and Natural Heritage

  • 1972
  • Includes sections on: National policy, general principles, organisation of services, specialised public services, advisory bodies, cooperation among the various bodies, competence of central, federal, regional and local bodies, protective measures, scientific and technical measures, legal measures, financial measures, educational and cultural action, and international cooperation.

Recommendation concerning the Safeguarding and Contemporary Role of Historic Areas

  • 1976
  • Includes general principles, national, regional and local policy, safeguarding measures, legal and administrative measures, technical, economic and social measures, research education and information, and international cooperation.

Recommendation concerning the International Exchange of Cultural Property

  • 1976
  • Includes a section on Action against Illicit Trading in Cultural Property.

Recommendation for the Protection of Movable Cultural Property

  • 1978
  • Includes: prevention of risks for museums and other similar institutions, private collections, movable cultural property situated in religious buildings and archaeological sites, international exchanges, education and information, control measures, measures to improve the financing of risk coverage, and international cooperation.


Principles for the recording of monuments, groups of buildings and sites

  • 1996
  • Recording of the cultural heritage should be seen as a priority.

Principles for the Preservation of Historic Timber Structures (Mexico)

  • 1999
  • Includes sections on: Inspection, recording and documentation, monitoring and maintenance, interventions, repairs and replacements, historic forest reserves, contemporary materials and technologies, education and training.

Principles for the Conservation of Wooden Built Heritage

  • 2017
  • Includes sections on: Inspection survey and research, analysis and evaluation, interventions, present-day materials and technologies, recording and documentation, monitoring and maintenance, historic forest reserves, and education and training.

Professional organisation codes of ethics and/or practice

American Alliance of Museums (AAM)

American Institute for Conservation (AIC)

  • 1994
  • Includes supplemental commentaries with governance documents, declarations, defining documents and meeting minutes.

Association of Registrars and Collections Specialists (ARCS)

  • Approved 2016

Australian Institute for Conservation of Cultural Materials (AICCM)

  • Last amended October 2002
  • Downloadable PDF document

Canadian Association for Conservation of Cultural Property (CAC-ACCR) and Canadian Association of Professional Conservators (CAPC)

  • 2000 (Third edition)
  • Downloadable PDF document

European Confederation of Conservator-Restorers Organisations (E.C.C.O.)

Institute of Conservation (ICON-UK)

  • Adopted 2020
  • Includes downloadable guidelines for creating a personal statement of ethical practice written by Jonathan Ashley-Smith

International Council of Museums (ICOM)

  • 1986, Revised in 2004, Reviewed in 2021-2022
  • Available in 38 languages
  • Includes standards for accession, deaccession, and fundraising
  • Includes a code of ethics specifically for Natural History Museums
  • Includes a checklist on ethics for cultural property ownership

International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS)

  • Adopted 2002. Adopted again 2011?
  • "The text concerning the ethical commitment of members is being revised."

Museums Aotearoa Te Tari o Ngā Whare Taonga o te Motu (New Zealand)

  • Adopted 2013
  • For Governing Bodies, Managers and Staff of Museums and Art Galleries in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Museums Association (UK)

  • Original year unclear

Society of American Archivists (SAA)

  • Approved 2011, Revised 2020
  • Includes the Archivist core values statement and Archivist code of ethics

Other documents

The Norms of Quito

  • 1967
  • "Every national monument is implicitly designed to fulfill a social function. It is the responsibility of the state to ensure this social function and to determine in each case the extent to which it is compatible with private property and private interests."

Bruges Resolutions of the International Symposium on the Conservation of Smaller Historic Towns

  • 1975
  • "can be applied more or less universally to the conservation of smaller historic towns"

The Nara document on authenticity

  • 1994
  • Foundational document
  • "Depending on the nature of the cultural heritage, its cultural context, and its evolution through time, authenticity judgements may be linked to the worth of a great variety of sources of information. Aspects of the sources may include form and design, materials and substance, use and function, traditions and techniques, location and setting, and spirit and feeling, and other internal and external factors. The use of these sources permits elaboration of the specific artistic, historic, social, and scientific dimensions of the cultural heritage being examined."

UNESCO International Code of Ethics for Dealers in Cultural Property

  • 1999
  • "Members of the trade in cultural property recognize the key role that trade has traditionally played in the dissemination of culture and in the distribution to museums and private collectors of foreign cultural property for the education and inspiration of all peoples."

International Council of Museums Code of Ethics for Museums

  • 2004
  • Outlines main responsibilities of museums.

Environmental Guidelines ICOM-CC and IIC Declaration

  • 2014
  • Born from the IIC congress in Hong Kong and the ICOM-CC conference in Melbourne in September 2014 (See preprints here)
  • "Museums and collecting institutions should seek to reduce their carbon footprint and environmental impact to mitigate climate change, by reducing their energy use and examining alternative renewable energy sources."

Bizot Green Protocol

  • 2015
  • "Museums should review policy and practice, particularly regarding loan requirements, storage and display conditions, and building design and air conditioning systems, with a view to reducing carbon footprints."

Did I miss any?

This list was pretty extensive, but I am sure I must have missed a few charters here and there. Do let me know if there are any in particular that you think I should have included and I will make sure to add it.

There is also a slightly different list that exists in the Getty website which may not be entirely represented here.

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