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



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

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.

Principles for the Preservation of Historic Timber Structures (Mexico)

  • 1999

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

  • 2000

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

  • 2003

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

  • 2003


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.

Other documents

Recommendation on International Principles Applicable to Archaeological Excavations

  • 1956

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

  • 1964

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."

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

  • 1968

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

  • 1972

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

  • 1975

Recommendation concerning the Safeguarding and Contemporary Role of Historic Areas

  • 1976

Recommendation concerning the International Exchange of Cultural Property

  • 1976

Recommendation for the Protection of Movable Cultural Property

  • 1978

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."

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

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

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.

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.

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