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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.

Conventions

1954

Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict.
Read it here.

  • 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.
Read it here.

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

1970

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

  • 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.

1972

Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage.
Read it here.

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

1976

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

  • 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.”

1995

UNIDROIT Convention on Stolen or Ilegally Exported Cultural Objects
Read it here

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

1999

Second Protocol for the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict.
Read it here.

  • “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.”

2001

UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage
Read it here.

  • “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.”

Charters

1931

The Athens Charter for the Restoration of Historic Monuments
Read it here.

  • 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.

1964

The Venice Charter: International Charter for the Conservation and Restoration of Monuments and Sites
Read it here.

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

1982

The Florence Charter for Historic Gardens
Read it here.

  • Guidelines for the preservation of historic gardens.

1987

The Washington Charter: Charter for the Conservation of Historic Towns and Urban Areas Read it here.

1990

Charter for the protection and management of the archaeological heritage
Read it here.

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

1996

Charter on the protection and management of underwater cultural heritage
Read it here.

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

1999

The Burra Charter for Places of Cultural Significance
Read it here.

  • “…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)
Read it here.

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

Principles for the Preservation of Historic Timber Structures (Mexico)
Read it here.

2000

The Charter of Krakow: Principles for conservation and restoration of built heritage.
Read it here.

2003

ICOMOS Charter – Principles for the analysis, conservation and structural restoration of architectural heritage
Read it here.

ICOMOS Principles for the preservation and conservation/restoration of wall paintings
Read it here.

Declarations

2003

UNESCO Declaration concerning the Intentional Destruction of Cultural Heritage
Read it here.

  • 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

1956

Recommendation on International Principles Applicable to Archaeological Excavations
Read it here.

1964

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

1967

The Norms of Quito
Read it here.

  • “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.”

1968

Recommendation concerning the Preservation of Cultural Property Endangered by Public or Private works
Read it here.

1972

Recommendation concerning the Protection, at National Level, of the Cultural and Natural Heritage
Read it here.

1975

Bruges Resolutions of the International Symposium on the Conservation of Smaller Historic Towns
Read it here.

1976

Recommendation concerning the Safeguarding and Contemporary Role of Historic Areas
Read it here.

Recommendation concerning the International Exchange of Cultural Property
Read it here.

1978

Recommendation for the Protection of Movable Cultural Property
Read it here.

1994

The Nara document on authenticity
Read it here.

  • “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.”

1996

Principles for the recording of monuments, groups of buildings and sites
Read it here.

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

1999

UNESCO International Code of Ethics for Dealers in Cultural Property
Read it here.

  • “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.”

2004

International Council of Museums Code of Ethics for Museums
Read it here.

  • 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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