Principles for the Preservation of Historic Timber Structures


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Adopted by ICOMOS at the 12th General Assembly in Mexico, October 1999

The aim of this document is to define basic and universally applicable principles and practices for the protection and preservation of historic timber structures with due respect to their cultural significance. Historic timber structures refer here to all types of buildings or constructions wholly or partially in timber that have cultural significance or that are parts of a historic area. 

For the purpose of the preservation of such structures, the Principles: 

  • recognise the importance of timber structures from all periods as part of the cultural heritage of the world; 
  • take into account the great diversity of historic timber structures; 
  • take into account the various species and qualities of wood used to build them; 
  • recognise the vulnerability of structures wholly or partially in timber due to material decay and degradation in varying environmental and climatic conditions, caused by humidity fluctuations, light, fungal and insect attacks, wear and tear, fire and other disasters; 
  • recognise the increasing scarcity of historic timber structures due to vulnerability, misuse and the loss of skills and knowledge of traditional design and construction technology; 
  • take into account the great variety of actions and treatments required for the preservation and conservation of these heritage resources; 
  • note the Venice Charter, the Burra Charter and related UNESCO and ICOMOS doctrine, and seek to apply these general principles to the protection and preservation of historic timber structures;
And make the following recommendations: 


1. The condition of the structure and its components should be carefully recorded before any intervention, as well as all materials used in treatments, in accordance with Article 16 of the Venice Charter and the ICOMOS Principles for the Recording of Monuments, Groups of Buildings and Sites. All pertinent documentation, including characteristic samples of redundant materials or members removed from the structure, and information about relevant traditional skills and technologies, should be collected, catalogued, securely stored and made accessible as appropriate. The documentation should also include the specific reasons given for choice of materials and methods in the preservation work. 

2. A thorough and accurate diagnosis of the condition and the causes of decay and structural failure of the timber structure should precede any intervention. The diagnosis should be based on documentary evidence, physical inspection and analysis, and, if necessary, measurements of physical conditions and non-destructive testing methods. This should not prevent necessary minor interventions and emergency measures. 


3. A coherent strategy of regular monitoring and maintenance is crucial for the protection of historic timber structures and their cultural significance. 


4. The primary aim of preservation and conservation is to maintain the historical authenticity and integrity of the cultural heritage. Each intervention should therefore be based on proper studies and assessments. Problems should be solved according to relevant conditions and needs with due respect for the aesthetic and historical values, and the physical integrity of the historic structure or site. 

5. Any proposed intervention should for preference: 

a) follow traditional means; 

b) be reversible, if technically possible; or

c) at least not prejudice or impede future preservation work whenever this may become necessary; and 

d) not hinder the possibility of later access to evidence incorporated in the structure.

6. The minimum intervention in the fabric of a historic timber structure is an ideal. In certain circumstances, minimum intervention can mean that their preservation and conservation may require the complete or partial dismantling and subsequent reassembly in order to allow for the repair of timber structures.

7. In the case of interventions, the historic structure should be considered as a whole; all material, including structural members, in-fill panels, weather-boarding, roofs, floors, doors and windows, etc., should be given equal attention. In principle, as much as possible of the existing material should be retained. The protection should also include surface finishes such as plaster, paint, coating, wall-paper, etc. If it is necessary to renew or replace surface finishes, the original materials, techniques and textures should be duplicated as far as possible. 

8. The aim of restoration is to conserve the historic structure and its loadbearing function and to reveal its cultural values by improving the legibility of its historical integrity, its earlier state and design within the limits of existing historic material evidence, as indicated in articles 9 - 13 of the Venice Charter. Removed members and other components of the historic structure should be catalogued, and characteristic samples kept in permanent storage as part of the documentation. 


9.In the repair of a historic structure, replacement timber can be used with due respect to relevant historical and aesthetical values, and where it is an appropriate response to the need to replace decayed or damaged members or their parts, or to the requirements of restoration. 

New members or parts of members should be made of the same species of wood with the same, or, if appropriate, with better, grading as in the members being replaced. Where possible, this should also include similar natural characteristics. The moisture content and other physical characteristics of the replacement timber should be compatible with the existing structure. 

Craftsmanship and construction technology, including the use of dressing tools or machinery, should, where possible, correspond with those used originally. Nails and other secondary materials should, where appropriate, duplicate the originals. 

If a part of a member is replaced, traditional woodwork joints should, if appropriate and compatible with structural requirements, be used to splice the new and the existing part. 

10. It should be accepted that new members or parts of members will be distinguishable from the existing ones. To copy the natural decay or deformation of the replaced members or parts is not desirable. Appropriate traditional or well-tested modern methods may be used to match the colouring of the old and the new with due regard that this will not harm or degrade the surface of the wooden member. 

11. New members or parts of members should be discretely marked, by carving, by marks burnt into the wood or by other methods, so that they can be identified later. 


12. The establishment and protection of forest or woodland reserves where appropriate timber can be obtained for the preservation and repair of historic timber structures should be encouraged. 

Institutions responsible for the preservation and conservation of historic structures and sites should establish or encourage the establishment of stores of timber appropriate for such work. 


13. Contemporary materials, such as epoxy resins, and techniques, such as structural steel reinforcement, should be chosen and used with the greatest caution, and only in cases where the durability and structural behaviour of the materials and construction techniques have been satisfactorily proven over a sufficiently long period of time. Utilities, such as heating, and fire detection and prevention systems, should be installed with due recognition of the historic and aesthetic significance of the structure or site. 

14. The use of chemical preservatives should be carefully controlled and monitored, and should be used only where there is an assured benefit, where public and environmental safety will not be affected and where the likelihood of success over the long term is significant. 


15. Regeneration of values related to the cultural significance of historic timber structures through educational programmes is an essential requisite of a sustainable preservation and development policy. The establishment and further development of training programmes on the protection, preservation and conservation of historic timber structures are encouraged. Such training should be based on a comprehensive strategy integrated within the needs of sustainable production and consumption, and include programmes at the local, national, regional and international levels. The programmes should address all relevant professions and trades involved in such work, and, in particular, architects, conservators, engineers, craftspersons and site managers.

International Cultural Tourism Charter


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( Managing Tourism at Places of Heritage Significance , 1999)

Adopted by ICOMOS at the 12th General Assembly in Mexico, October 1999


The Charter Ethos 

At the broadest level, the natural and cultural heritage belongs to all people. We each have a right and responsibility to understand, appreciate and conserve its universal values. 

Heritage is a broad concept and includes the natural as well as the cultural environment. It encompasses landscapes, historic places, sites and built environments, as well as bio-diversity, collections, past and continuing cultural practices, knowledge and living experiences. It records and expresses the long processes of historic development, forming the essence of diverse national, regional, indigenous and local identities and is an integral part of modern life. It is a dynamic reference point and positive instrument for growth and change. The particular heritage and collective memory of each locality or community is irreplaceable and an important foundation for development, both now and into the future. 

At a time of increasing globalisation, the protection, conservation, interpretation and presentation of the heritage and cultural diversity of any particular place or region is an important challenge for people everywhere. However, management of that heritage, within a framework of internationally recognised and appropriately applied standards, is usually the responsibility of the particular community or custodian group. 

A primary objective for managing heritage is to communicate its significance and need for its conservation to its host community and to visitors. Reasonable and well managed physical, intellectual and/or emotive access to heritage and cultural development is both a right and a privilege. It brings with it a duty of respect for the heritage values, interests and equity of the present-day host community, indigenous custodians or owners of historic property and for the landscapes and cultures from which that heritage evolved. 

The Dynamic Interaction between Tourism and Cultural Heritage

Domestic and international tourism continues to be among the foremost vehicles for cultural exchange, providing a personal experience, not only of that which has survived from the past, but of the contemporary life and society of others. It is increasingly appreciated as a positive force for natural and cultural conservation. Tourism can capture the economic characteristics of the heritage and harness these for conservation by generating funding, educating the community and influencing policy. It is an essential part of many national and regional economies and can be an important factor in development, when managed successfully. 

Tourism itself has become an increasingly complex phenomenon, with political, economic, social, cultural, educational, bio-physical, ecological and aesthetic dimensions. The achievement of a beneficial inter-action between the potentially conflicting expectations and aspirations of visitors and host or local communities, presents many challenges and opportunities. 

The natural and cultural heritage, diversities and living cultures are major tourism attractions. Excessive or poorly-managed tourism and tourism related development can threaten their physical nature, integrity and significant characteristics. The ecological setting, culture and lifestyles of host communities may also be degraded, along with the visitor's experience of the place. 

Tourism should bring benefits to host communities and provide an important means and motivation for them to care for and maintain their heritage and cultural practices. The involvement and co-operation of local and/or indigenous community representatives, conservationists, tourism operators, property owners, policy makers, those preparing national development plans and site managers is necessary to achieve a sustainable tourism industry and enhance the protection of heritage resources for future generations. 

ICOMOS, the International Council on Monuments and Sites, as the author of this Charter, other international organisations and the tourism industry, are dedicated to this challenge. 

Objectives of the Charter

The Objectives of the International Cultural Tourism Charter are:

  • To facilitate and encourage those involved with heritage conservation and management to make the significance of that heritage accessible to the host community and visitors. 
  • To facilitate and encourage the tourism industry to promote and manage tourism in ways that respect and enhance the heritage and living cultures of host communities. 
  • To facilitate and encourage a dialogue between conservation interests and the tourism industry about the importance and fragile nature of heritage places, collections and living cultures, including the need to achieve a sustainable future for them. 
  • To encourage those formulating plans and policies to develop detailed, measurable goals and strategies relating to the presentation and interpretation of heritage places and cultural activities, in the context of their preservation and conservation.
In addition, 
  • The Charter supports wider initiatives by ICOMOS, other international bodies and the tourism industry in maintaining the integrity of heritage management and conservation. 
  • The Charter encourages the involvement of all those with relevant or at times conflicting interests, responsibilities and obligations to join in achieving its objectives. 
  • The Charter encourages the formulation of detailed guidelines by interested parties, facilitating the implementation of the Principles to their specific circumstances or the requirements of particular organisations and communities.

Principle 1

Since domestic and international tourism is among the foremost vehicles for cultural exchange, conservation should provide responsible and well managed opportunities for members of the host community and visitors to experience and understand that community's heritage and culture at first hand. 


The natural and cultural heritage is a material and spiritual resource, providing a narrative of historical development. It has an important role in modern life and should be made physically, intellectually and/or emotively accessible to the general public. Programmes for the protection and conservation of the physical attributes, intangible aspects, contemporary cultural expressions and broad context, should facilitate an understanding and appreciation of the heritage significance by the host community and the visitor, in an equitable and affordable manner. 


Individual aspects of natural and cultural heritage have differing levels of significance, some with universal values, others of national, regional or local importance. Interpretation programmes should present that significance in a relevant and accessible manner to the host community and the visitor, with appropriate, stimulating and contemporary forms of education, media, technology and personal explanation of historical, environmental and cultural information. 


Interpretation and presentation programmes should facilitate and encourage the high level of public awareness and support necessary for the long term survival of the natural and cultural heritage. 


Interpretation programmes should present the significance of heritage places, traditions and cultural practices within the past experience and present diversities of the area and the host community, including that of minority cultural or linguistic groups. The visitor should always be informed of the differing cultural values that may be ascribed to a particular heritage resource. 

Principle 2

The relationship between Heritage Places and Tourism is dynamic and may involve conflicting values. It should be managed in a sustainable way for present and future generations. 


Places of heritage significance have an intrinsic value for all people as an important basis for cultural diversity and social development. The long term protection and conservation of living cultures, heritage places, collections, their physical and ecological integrity and their environmental context, should be an essential component of social, economic, political, legislative, cultural and tourism development policies. 


The interaction between heritage resources or values and tourism is dynamic and ever changing, generating both opportunities and challenges, as well as potential conflicts. Tourism projects, activities and developments should achieve positive outcomes and minimise adverse impacts on the heritage and lifestyles of the host community, while responding to the needs and aspirations of the visitor. 


Conservation, interpretation and tourism development programmes should be based on a comprehensive understanding of the specific, but often complex or conflicting aspects of heritage significance of the particular place. Continuing research and consultation are important to furthering the evolving understanding and appreciation of that significance. 


The retention of the authenticity of heritage places and collections is important. It is an essential element of their cultural significance, as expressed in the physical material, collected memory and intangible traditions that remain from the past. Programmes should present and interpret the authenticity of places and cultural experiences to enhance the appreciation and understanding of that cultural heritage. 


Tourism development and infrastructure projects should take account of the aesthetic, social and cultural dimensions, natural and cultural landscapes, bio-diversity characteristics and the broader visual context of heritage places. Preference should be given to using local materials and take account of local architectural styles or vernacular traditions. 


Before heritage places are promoted or developed for increased tourism, management plans should assess the natural and cultural values of the resource. They should then establish appropriate limits of acceptable change, particularly in relation to the impact of visitor numbers on the physical characteristics, integrity, ecology and biodiversity of the place, local access and transportation systems and the social, economic and cultural well being of the host community. If the likely level of change is unacceptable the development proposal should be modified. 


There should be on-going programmes of evaluation to assess the progressive impacts of tourism activities and development on the particular place or community. 

Principle 3

Conservation and Tourism Planning for Heritage Places should ensure that the Visitor Experience will be worthwhile, satisfying and enjoyable. 


Conservation and tourism programmes should present high quality information to optimise the visitor's understanding of the significant heritage characteristics and of the need for their protection, enabling the visitor to enjoy the place in an appropriate manner. 


Visitors should be able to experience the heritage place at their own pace, if they so choose. Specific circulation routes may be necessary to minimise impacts on the integrity and physical fabric of a place, its natural and cultural characteristics. 


Respect for the sanctity of spiritual places, practices and traditions is an important consideration for site managers, visitors, policy makers, planners and tourism operators. Visitors should be encouraged to behave as welcomed guests, respecting the values and lifestyles of the host community, rejecting possible theft or illicit trade in cultural property and conducting themselves in a responsible manner which would generate a renewed welcome, should they return. 


Planning for tourism activities should provide appropriate facilities for the comfort, safety and well-being of the visitor, that enhance the enjoyment of the visit but do not adversely impact on the significant features or ecological characteristics. 

Principle 4

Host communities and indigenous peoples should be involved in planning for conservation and tourism. 


The rights and interests of the host community, at regional and local levels, property owners and relevant indigenous peoples who may exercise traditional rights or responsibilities over their own land and its significant sites, should be respected. They should be involved in establishing goals, strategies, policies and protocols for the identification, conservation, management, presentation and interpretation of their heritage resources, cultural practices and contemporary cultural expressions, in the tourism context. 


While the heritage of any specific place or region may have a universal dimension, the needs and wishes of some communities or indigenous peoples to restrict or manage physical, spiritual or intellectual access to certain cultural practices, knowledge, beliefs, activities, artefacts or sites should be respected. 

Principle 5

Tourism and conservation activities should benefit the host community.


Policy makers should promote measures for the equitable distribution of the benefits of tourism to be shared across countries or regions, improving the levels of socio-economic development and contributing where necessary to poverty alleviation. 


Conservation management and tourism activities should provide equitable economic, social and cultural benefits to the men and women of the host or local community, at all levels, through education, training and the creation of full-time employment opportunities. 


A significant proportion of the revenue specifically derived from tourism programmes to heritage places should be allotted to the protection, conservation and presentation of those places, including their natural and cultural contexts. Where possible, visitors should be advised of this revenue allocation. 


Tourism programmes should encourage the training and employment of guides and site interpreters from the host community to enhance the skills of local people in the presentation and interpretation of their cultural values. 


Heritage interpretation and education programmes among the people of the host community should encourage the involvement of local site interpreters. The programmes should promote a knowledge and respect for their heritage, encouraging the local people to take a direct interest in its care and conservation. 


Conservation management and tourism programmes should include education and training opportunities for policy makers, planners, researchers, designers, architects, interpreters, conservators and tourism operators. Participants should be encouraged to understand and help resolve the at times conflicting issues, opportunities and problems encountered by their colleagues. 

Principle 6

Tourism promotion programmes should protect and enhance Natural and Cultural Heritage characteristics.


Tourism promotion programmes should create realistic expectations and responsibly inform potential visitors of the specific heritage characteristics of a place or host community, thereby encouraging them to behave appropriately. 


Places and collections of heritage significance should be promoted and managed in ways which protect their authenticity and enhance the visitor experience by minimising fluctuations in arrivals and avoiding excessive numbers of visitors at any one time. 


Tourism promotion programmes should provide a wider distribution of benefits and relieve the pressures on more popular places by encouraging visitors to experience the wider cultural and natural heritage characteristics of the region or locality. 


The promotion, distribution and sale of local crafts and other products should provide a reasonable social and economic return to the host community, while ensuring that their cultural integrity is not degraded.

Charter on the Protection and Management of Underwater Cultural Heritage


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Ratified by the 11th ICOMOS General Assembly in Sofia, Bulgaria, October 1996 


This Charter is intended to encourage the protection and management of underwater cultural heritage in inland and inshore waters, in shallow seas and in the deep oceans. It focuses on the specific attributes and circumstances of cultural heritage under water and should be understood as a supplement to the ICOMOS Charter for the Protection and Management of Archaeological Heritage, 1990. The 1990 Charter defines the "archaeological heritage" as that part of the material heritage in respect of which archaeological methods provide primary information, comprising all vestiges of human existence and consisting of places relating to all manifestations of human activity, abandoned structures, and remains of all kinds, together with all the portable cultural material associated with them. For the purposes of this Charter underwater cultural heritage is understood to mean the archaeological heritage which is in, or has been removed from, an underwater environment. It includes submerged sites and structures, wreck-sites and wreckage and their archaeological and natural context. 

By its very character the underwater cultural heritage is an international resource. A large part of the underwater cultural heritage is located in an international setting and derives from international trade and communication in which ships and their contents are lost at a distance from their origin or destination. 

Archaeology is concerned with environmental conservation; in the language of resource management, underwater cultural heritage is both finite and non-renewable. If underwater cultural heritage is to contribute to our appreciation of the environment in the future, then we have to take individual and collective responsibility in the present for ensuring its continued survival. 

Archaeology is a public activity; everybody is entitled to draw upon the past in informing their own lives, and every effort to curtail knowledge of the past is an infringement of personal autonomy. Underwater cultural heritage contributes to the formation of identity and can be important to people's sense of community. If managed sensitively, underwater cultural heritage can play a positive role in the promotion of recreation and tourism. 

Archaeology is driven by research, it adds to knowledge of the diversity of human culture through the ages and it provides new and challenging ideas about life in the past. Such knowledge and ideas contribute to understanding life today and, thereby, to anticipating future challenges. 

Many marine activities, which are themselves beneficial and desirable, can have unfortunate consequences for underwater cultural heritage if their effects are not foreseen. 

Underwater cultural heritage may be threatened by construction work that alters the shore and seabed or alters the flow of current, sediment and pollutants. Underwater cultural heritage may also be threatened by insensitive exploitation of living and non-living resources. Furthermore, inappropriate forms of access and the incremental impact of removing "souvenirs" can have a deleterious effect. 

Many of these threats can be removed or substantially reduced by early consultation with archaeologists and by implementing mitigatory projects. This Charter is intended to assist in bringing a high standard of archaeological expertise to bear on such threats to underwater cultural heritage in a prompt and efficient manner. 

Underwater cultural heritage is also threatened by activities that are wholly undesirable because they are intended to profit few at the expense of many. Commercial exploitation of underwater cultural heritage for trade or speculation is fundamentally incompatible with the protection and management of the heritage. This Charter is intended to ensure that all investigations are explicit in their aims, methodology and anticipated results so that the intention of each project is transparent to all. 

Article 1 - Fundamental Principles

The preservation of underwater cultural heritage in situ should be considered as a first option. 

Public access should be encouraged. 

Non-destructive techniques, non-intrusive survey and sampling should be encouraged in preference to excavation. 

Investigation must not adversely impact the underwater cultural heritage more than is necessary for the mitigatory or research objectives of the project. 

Investigation must avoid unnecessary disturbance of human remains or venerated sites. 

Investigation must be accompanied by adequate documentation. 

Article 2 - Project Design

Prior to investigation a project must be prepared, taking into account: 

  • the mitigatory or research objectives of the project; 
  • the methodology to be used and the techniques to be employed; 
  • anticipated funding; 
  • the time-table for completing the project; 
  • the composition, qualifications, responsibility and experience of the investigating team; 
  • material conservation; 
  • site management and maintenance; 
  • arrangements for collaboration with museums and other institutions; 
  • documentation; 
  • health and safety; 
  • report preparation; 
  • deposition of archives, including underwater cultural heritage removed during investigation; 
  • dissemination, including public participation.
The project design should be revised and amended as necessary. 

Investigation must be carried out in accordance with the project design. The project design should be made available to the archaeological community. 

Article 3 - Funding

Adequate funds must be assured in advance of investigation to complete all stages of the project design including conservation, report preparation and dissemination. The project design should include contingency plans that will ensure conservation of underwater cultural heritage and supporting documentation in the event of any interruption in anticipated funding. 

Project funding must not require the sale of underwater cultural heritage or the use of any strategy that will cause underwater cultural heritage and supporting documentation to be irretrievably dispersed. 

Article 4 - Time-table

Adequate time must be assured in advance of investigation to complete all stages of the project design including conservation, report preparation and dissemination. The project design should include contingency plans that will ensure conservation of underwater cultural heritage and supporting documentation in the event of any interruption in anticipated timings. 

Article 5- Research objectives, methodology and techniques

Research objectives and the details of the methodology and techniques to be employed must be set down in the project design. The methodology should accord with the research objectives of the investigation and the techniques employed must be as unintrusive as possible. 

Post-fieldwork analysis of artefacts and documentation is integral to all investigation; adequate provision for this analysis must be made in the project design. 

Article 6 - Qualifications, responsibility and experience

All persons on the investigating team must be suitably qualified and experienced for their project roles. They must be fully briefed and understand the work required. 

All intrusive investigations of underwater cultural heritage will only be undertaken under the direction and control of a named underwater archaeologist with recognised qualifications and experience appropriate to the investigation. 

Article 7 - Preliminary investigation

All intrusive investigations of underwater cultural heritage must be preceded and informed by a site assessment that evaluates the vulnerability, significance and potential of the site. 

The site assessment must encompass background studies of available historical and archaeological evidence, the archaeological and environmental characteristics of the site and the consequences of the intrusion for the long term stability of the area affected by investigations. 

Article 8 - Documentation

All investigation must be thoroughly documented in accordance with current professional standards of archaeological documentation. 

Documentation must provide a comprehensive record of the site, which includes the provenance of underwater cultural heritage moved or removed in the course of investigation, field notes, plans and drawings, photographs and records in other media. 

Article 9 - Material conservation

The material conservation programme must provide for treatment of archaeological remains during investigation, in transit and in the long term. 

Material conservation must be carried out in accordance with current professional standards. 

Article 10 - Site management and maintenance

A programme of site management must be prepared, detailing measures for protecting and managing in situ underwater cultural heritage in the course of an upon termination of fieldwork. The programme should include public information, reasonable provision for site stabilisation, monitoring and protection against interference. Public access to in situ underwater cultural heritage should be promoted, except where access is incompatible with protection and management. 

Article 11 - Health and safety

The health and safety of the investigating team and third parties is paramount. All persons on the investigating team must work according to a safety policy that satisfies relevant statutory and professional requirements and is set out in the project design. 

Article 12 - Reporting

Interim reports should be made available according to a time-table set out in the project design, and deposited in relevant public records. 

Reports should include: 

  • an account of the objectives;
  • an account of the methodology and techniques employed; 
  • an account of the results achieved; 
  • recommendations concerning future research, site management and curation of underwater cultural heritage removed during the investigation.
Article 13 - Curation

The project archive, which includes underwater cultural heritage removed during investigation and a copy of all supporting documentation, must be deposited in an institution that can provide for public access and permanent curation of the archive. Arrangements for deposition of the archive should be agreed before investigation commences, and should be set out in the project design. The archive should be prepared in accordance with current professional standards. 

The scientific integrity of the project archive must be assured; deposition in a number of institutions must not preclude reassembly to allow further research. Underwater cultural heritage is not to be traded as items of commercial value. 

Article 14 - Dissemination

Public awareness of the results of investigations and the significance of underwater cultural heritage should be promoted through popular presentation in a range of media. Access to such presentations by a wide audience should not be prejudiced by high charges. 

Co-operation with local communities and groups is to be encouraged, as is co-operation with communities and groups that are particularly associated with the underwater cultural heritage concerned. It is desirable that investigations proceed with the consent and endorsement of such communities and groups. 

The investigation team will seek to involve communities and interest groups in investigations to the extent that such involvement is compatible with protection and management. Where practical, the investigation team should provide opportunities for the public to develop archaeological skills through training and education. 

Collaboration with museums and other institutions is to be encouraged. Provision for visits, research and reports by collaborating institutions should be made in advance of investigation. 

A final synthesis of the investigation must be made available as soon as possible, having regard to the complexity of the research, and deposited in relevant public records. 

Article 15 - International co-operation

International co-operation is essential for protection and management of underwater cultural heritage and should be promoted in the interests of high standards of investigation and research. International co-operation should be encouraged in order to make effective use of archaeologists and other professionals who are specialised in investigations of underwater cultural heritage. Programmes for exchange of professionals should be considered as a means of disseminating best practice.

Charter for the Protection and Management of the Archaeological Heritage


Prepared by the International Committee for the Management of Archaeological Heritage (ICAHM) an approved by the 9th General Assembly in Lausanne in 1990. 


It is widely recognised that a knowledge and understanding of the origins and development of human societies is of fundamental importance to humanity in identifying its cultural and social roots. 

The archaeological heritage constitutes the basic record of past human activities. Its protection and proper management is therefore essential to enable archaeologists and other scholars to study and interpret it on behalf of and for the benefit of present and future generations. 

The protection of this heritage cannot be based upon the application of archaeological techniques alone. It requires a wider basis of professional and scientific knowledge and skills. Some elements of the archaeological heritage are components of architectural structures and in such cases must be protected in accordance with the criteria for the protection of such structures laid down in the 1966 Venice Charter on the Conservation and Restoration of Monuments and Sites. Other elements of the archaeological heritage constitute part of the living traditions of indigenous peoples, and for such sites and monuments the participation of local cultural groups is essential for their protection and preservation. 

For these and other reasons the protection of the archaeological heritage must be based upon effective collaboration between professionals from many disciplines. It also requires the co-operation of government authorities, academic researchers, private or public enterprise, and the general public. This charter therefore lays down principles relating to the different aspects of archaeological heritage management. These include the responsibilities of public authorities and legislators, principles relating to the professional performance of the processes of inventorisation, survey, excavation, documentation, research, maintenance, conservation, preservation, reconstruction, information, presentation, public access and use of the heritage, and the qualification of professionals involved in the protection of the archaeological heritage. 

The charter has been inspired by the success of the Venice Charter as guidelines and source of ideas for policies and practice of governments as well as scholars and professionals. 

The charter has to reflect very basic principles and guidelines with global validity. For this reason it cannot take into account the specific problems and possibilities of regions or countries. The charter should therefore be supplemented at regional and national levels by further principles and guidelines for these needs. 


Article 1

The "archaeological heritage" is that part of the material heritage in respect of which archaeological methods provide primary information. It comprises all vestiges of human existence and consists of places relating to all manifestations of human activity, abandoned structures, and remains of all kinds (including subterranean and underwater sites), together with all the portable cultural material associated with them. 


Article 2. 

The archaeological heritage is a fragile and non-renewable cultural resource. Land use must therefore be controlled and developed in order to minimise the destruction of the archaeological heritage. 

Policies for the protection of the archaeological heritage should constitute an integral component of policies relating to land use, development, and planning as well as of cultural, environmental and educational policies. The policies for the protection of the archaeological heritage should be kept under continual review, so that they stay up to date. The creation of archaeological reserves should form part of such policies. 

The protection of the archaeological heritage should be integrated into planning policies at international, national, regional and local levels. 

Active participation by the general public must form part of policies for the protection of the archaeological heritage. This is essential where the heritage of indigenous peoples is involved. Participation must be based upon access to the knowledge necessary for decision-making. The provision of information to the general public is therefore an important element in integrated protection. 


Article 3.

The protection of the archaeological heritage should be considered as a moral obligation upon all human beings; it is also a collective public responsibility. This obligation must be acknowledged through relevant legislation and the provision of adequate funds for the supporting programmes necessary for effective heritage management. 

The archaeological heritage is common to all human society and it should therefore be the duty of every country to ensure that adequate funds are available for its protection. 

Legislation should afford protection to the archaeological heritage that is appropriate to the needs, history, and traditions of each country and region, providing for in situ protection and research needs. 

Legislation should be based on the concept of the archaeological heritage as the heritage of all humanity and of groups of peoples, and not restricted to any individual person or nation. 

Legislation should forbid the destruction, degradation or alteration through changes of any archaeological site or monument or to their surroundings without the consent of the relevant archaeological authority. 

Legislation should in principle require full archaeological investigation and documentation in cases where the destruction of the archaeological heritage is authorised. 

Legislation should require, and make provision for, the proper maintenance, management and conservation of the archaeological heritage. Adequate legal sanctions should be prescribed in respect of violations of archaeological heritage legislation. 

If legislation affords protection only to those elements of the archaeological heritage which are registered in a selective statutory inventory, provision should be made for the temporary protection of unprotected or newly discovered sites and monuments until an archaeological evaluation can be carried out. 

Development projects constitute one of the greatest physical threats to the archaeological heritage. A duty for developers to ensure that archaeological heritage impact studies are carried out before development schemes are implemented, should therefore be embodied in appropriate legislation, with a stipulation that the costs of such studies are to be included in project costs. The principle should also be established in legislation that development schemes should be designed in such a way as to minimise their impact upon the archaeological heritage. 


Article 4. 

The protection of the archaeological heritage must be based upon the fullest possible knowledge of its extent and nature. General survey of archaeological resources is therefore an essential working tool in developing strategies for the protection of the archaeological heritage. Consequently archaeological survey should be a basic obligation in the protection and management of the archaeological heritage. 

At the same time, inventories constitute primary resource databases for scientific study and research. The compilation of inventories should therefore be regarded as a continuous, dynamic process. It follows that inventories should comprise information at various levels of significance and reliability, since even superficial knowledge can form the starting point for protectional measures. 


Article 5.

Archaeological knowledge is based principally on the scientific investigation of the archaeological heritage. Such investigation embraces the whole range of methods from non-destructive techniques through sampling to total excavation. 

It must be an overriding principle that the gathering of information about the archaeological heritage should not destroy any more archaeological evidence than is necessary for the protectional or scientific objectives of the investigation. Non-destructive techniques, aerial and ground survey, and sampling should therefore be encouraged wherever possible, in preference to total excavation. 

As excavation always implies the necessity of making a selection of evidence to be documented and preserved at the cost of losing other information and possibly even the total destruction of the monument, a decision to excavate should only be taken after thorough consideration. 

Excavation should be carried out on sites and monuments threatened by development, land-use change, looting, or natural deterioration. 

In exceptional cases, unthreatened sites may be excavated to elucidate research problems or to interpret them more effectively for the purpose of presenting them to the public. In such cases excavation must be preceded by thorough scientific evaluation of the significance of the site. Excavation should be partial, leaving a portion undisturbed for future research. 

A report conforming to an agreed standard should be made available to the scientific community and should be incorporated in the relevant inventory within a reasonable period after the conclusion of the excavation. 

Excavations should be conducted in accordance with the principles embodied in the 1956 UNESCO Recommendations on International Principles Applicable to Archaeological Excavations and with agreed international and national professional standards. 


Article 6. 

The overall objective of archaeological heritage management should be the preservation of monuments and sites in situ, including proper long-term conservation and curation of all related records and collections etc. Any transfer of elements of the heritage to new locations represents a violation of the principle of preserving the heritage in its original context. This principle stresses the need for proper maintenance, conservation and management. It also asserts the principle that the archaeological heritage should not be exposed by excavation or left exposed after excavation if provision for its proper maintenance and management after excavation cannot be guaranteed. 

Local commitment and participation should be actively sought and encouraged as a means of promoting the maintenance of the archaeological heritage. This principle is especially important when dealing with the heritage of indigenous peoples or local cultural groups. In some cases it may be appropriate to entrust responsibility for the protection and management of sites and monuments to indigenous peoples. 

Owing to the inevitable limitations of available resources, active maintenance will have to be carried out on a selective basis. It should therefore be applied to a sample of the diversity of sites and monuments, based upon a scientific assessment of their significance and representative character, and not confined to the more notable and visually attractive monuments. 

The relevant principles of the 1956 UNESCO Recommendations should be applied in respect of the maintenance and conservation of the archaeological heritage. 


Article 7.

The presentation of the archaeological heritage to the general public is an essential method of promoting an understanding of the origins and development of modern societies. At the same time it is the most important means of promoting an understanding of the need for its protection. 

Presentation and information should be conceived as a popular interpretation of the current state of knowledge, and it must therefore be revised frequently. It should take account of the multifaceted approaches to an understanding of the past. 

Reconstructions serve two important functions: experimental research and interpretation. They should, however, be carried out with great caution, so as to avoid disturbing any surviving archaeological evidence, and they should take account of evidence from all sources in order to achieve authenticity. Where possible and appropriate, reconstructions should not be built immediately on the archaeological remains, and should be identifiable as such. 


Article 8. 

High academic standards in many different disciplines are essential in the management of the archaeological heritage. The training of an adequate number of qualified professionals in the relevant fields of expertise should therefore be an important objective for the educational policies in every country. The need to develop expertise in certain highly specialised fields calls for international co-operation. Standards of professional training and professional conduct should be established and maintained. 

The objective of academic archaeological training should take account of the shift in conservation policies from excavation to in situ preservation. It should also take into account the fact that the study of the history of indigenous peoples is as important in preserving and understanding the archaeological heritage as the study of outstanding monuments and sites. 

The protection of the archaeological heritage is a process of continuous dynamic development. Time should therefore be made available to professionals working in this field to enable them to update their knowledge. Postgraduate training programmes should be developed with special emphasis on the protection and management of the archaeological heritage. 


Article 9.

The archaeological heritage is the common heritage of all humanity. International co-operation is therefore essential in developing and maintaining standards in its management. 

There is an urgent need to create international mechanisms for the exchange of information and experience among professionals dealing with archaeological heritage management. This requires the organisation of conferences, seminars, workshops, etc. at global as well as regional levels, and the establishment of regional centres for postgraduate studies. ICOMOS, through its specialised groups, should promote this aspect in its medium- and long-term planning. 

International exchanges of professional staff should also be developed as a means of raising standards of archaeological heritage management. 

Technical assistance programmes in the field of archaeological heritage management should be developed under the auspices of ICOMOS. 

Charter for the Conservation of Historic Towns and Urban Areas


[PDF-86 Kb]

(Washington Charter - 1987)

Adopted by ICOMOS General Assembly in Washington D.C., October 1987


All urban communities, whether they have developed gradually over time or have been created deliberately, are an expression of the diversity of societies throughout history. 

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. Beyond their role as historical documents, these areas embody the values of traditional urban cultures. Today many such areas are being threatened, physically degraded, damaged or even destroyed, by the impact of the urban development that follows industrialisation in societies everywhere. 

Faced with this dramatic situation, which often leads to irreversible cultural, social and even economic losses, the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) deems it necessary to draw up an international charter for historic towns and urban areas that will complement the "International Charter for the Conservation and Restoration of Monuments and Sites," usually referred to as "The Venice Charter." This new text defines the principles, objectives, and methods necessary for the conservation of historic towns and urban areas. It also seeks to promote the harmony of both private and community life in these areas and to encourage the preservation of those cultural properties, however modest in scale, that constitute the memory of mankind. 

As set out in the UNESCO "Recommendation Concerning the Safeguarding and Contemporary Role of Historic Areas" (Warsaw - Nairobi, 1976), and also in various other international instruments, "the conservation of historic towns and urban areas" is understood to mean those steps necessary for the protection, conservation and restoration of such towns and areas as well as their development and harmonious adaptation to contemporary life. 


1. In order to be most effective, the conservation of historic towns and other historic urban areas should be an integral part of coherent policies of economic and social development and of urban and regional planning at every level.

2. Qualities to be preserved include the historic character of the town or urban area and all those material and spiritual elements that express this character, especially:

a)Urban patterns as defined by lots and streets;

b) Relationships between buildings and green and open spaces;

c) The formal appearance, interior and exterior, of buildings as defined by scale, size, style, construction, materials, colour and decoration;

d) The relationship between the town or urban area and its surrounding setting, both natural and man-made; and

e) The various functions that the town or urban area has acquired over time.

Any threat to these qualities would compromise the authenticity of the historic town or urban area.

3. The participation and the involvement of the residents are essential for the success of the conservation programme and should be encouraged. The conservation of historic towns and urban areas concerns their residents first of all.

4. Conservation in a historic town or urban area demands prudence, a systematic approach and discipline. Rigidity should be avoided since individual cases may present specific problems.


5. Planning for the conservation of historic towns and urban areas should be preceded by multidisciplinary studies.

Conservation plans must address all relevant factors including archaeology, history, architecture, techniques, sociology and economics.

The principal objectives of the conservation plan should be clearly stated as should the legal, administrative and financial measures necessary to attain them.

The conservation plan should aim at ensuring a harmonious relationship between the historic urban areas and the town as a whole.

The conservation plan should determine which buildings must be preserved, which should be preserved under certain circumstances and which, under quite exceptional circumstances, might be expendable.

Before any intervention, existing conditions in the area should be thoroughly documented.

The conservation plan should be supported by the residents of the historic area.

6. Until a conservation plan has been adopted, any necessary conservation activity should be carried out in accordance with the principles and the aims of this Charter and the Venice Charter.

7. Continuing maintenance is crucial to the effective conservation of a historic town or urban area.

8. New functions and activities should be compatible with the character of the historic town or urban area.

Adaptation of these areas to contemporary life requires the careful installation or improvement of public service facilities.

9. The improvement of housing should be one of the basic objectives of conservation.

10. When it is necessary to construct new buildings or adapt existing ones, the existing spatial layout should be respected, especially in terms of scale and lot size.

The introduction of contemporary elements in harmony with the surroundings should not be discouraged since such features can contribute to the enrichment of an area.

11. Knowledge of the history of a historic town or urban area should be expanded through archaeological investigation and appropriate preservation of archaeological findings.

12. Traffic inside a historic town or urban area must be controlled and parking areas must be planned so that they do not damage the historic fabric or its environment.

13. When urban or regional planning provides for the construction of major motorways, they must not penetrate a historic town or urban area, but they should improve access to them.

14. Historic towns should be protected against natural disasters and nuisances such as pollution and vibrations in order to safeguard the heritage and for the security and well-being of the residents.

Whatever the nature of a disaster affecting a historic town or urban area, preventative and repair measures must be adapted to the specific character of the properties concerned.

15. In order to encourage their participation and involvement, a general information programme should be set up for all residents, beginning with children of school age.

16. Specialised training should be provided for all those professions concerned with conservation.

The Florence Charter

[PDF-102 Kb]

(The Florence Charter - 1982)

Adopted by ICOMOS in December 1982


The ICOMOS-IFLA International Committee for Historic Gardens, meeting in Florence on 21 May 1981, decided to draw up a charter on the preservation of historic gardens which would bear the name of that town. The present Florence Charter was drafted by the Committee and registered by ICOMOS on 15 December 1982 as an addendum to the Venice Charter covering the specific field concerned. 


Article 1. 

"A historic garden is an architectural and horticultural composition of interest to the public from the historical or artistic point of view". As such, it is to be considered as a monument. 

Article 2. 

"The historic garden is an architectural composition whose constituents are primarily vegetal and therefore living, which means that they are perishable and renewable." Thus its appearance reflects the perpetual balance between the cycle of the seasons, the growth and decay of nature and the desire of the artist and craftsman to keep it permanently unchanged. 

Article 3. 

As a monument, the historic garden must be preserved in accordance with the spirit of the Venice Charter. However, since it is a living monument, its preservation must be governed by specific rules which are the subject of the Present charter. 

Article 4. 

The architectural composition of the historic garden includes: 

  • Its plan and its topography. 
  • Its vegetation, including its species, proportions, colour schemes, spacing and respective heights. 
  • Its structural and decorative features. 
  • Its water, running or still, reflecting the sky.

Article 5. 

As the expression of the direct affinity between civilisation and nature, and as a place of enjoyment suited to meditation or repose, the garden thus acquires the cosmic significance of an idealised image of the world, a "paradise" in the etymological sense of the term, and yet a testimony to a culture, a style, an age, and often to the originality of a creative artist. 

Article 6. 

The term "historic garden" is equally applicable to small gardens and to large parks, whether formal or "landscape". 

Article 7. 

Whether or not it is associated with a building in which case it is an inseparable complement, the historic garden cannot be isolated from its own particular environment, whether urban or rural, artificial or natural. 

Article 8. 

A historic site is a specific landscape associated with a memorable act, as, for example, a major historic event; a well-known myth; an epic combat; or the subject of a famous picture. 

Article 9. 

The preservation of historic gardens depends on their identification and listing. They require several kinds of action, namely maintenance, conservation and restoration. In certain cases, reconstruction may be recommended. The authenticity of a historic garden depends as much on the design and scale of its various parts as on its decorative features and on the choice of plant or inorganic materials adopted for each of its parts. 


Article 10. 

In any work of maintenance, conservation, restoration or reconstruction of a historic garden, or of any part of it, all its constituent features must be dealt with simultaneously. To isolate the various operations would damage the unity of the whole. 


Article 11. 

Continuous maintenance of historic gardens is of paramount importance. Since the principal material is vegetal, the preservation of the garden in an unchanged condition requires both prompt replacements when required and a long-term programme of periodic renewal (clear felling and replanting with mature specimens). 

Article 12. 

Those species of trees, shrubs, plants and flowers to be replaced periodically must be selected with regard for established and recognised practice in each botanical and horticultural region, and with the aim to determine the species initially grown and to preserve them. 

Article 13. 

The permanent or movable architectural, sculptural or decorative features which form an integral part of the historic garden must be removed or displaced only insofar as this is essential for their conservation or restoration. The replacement or restoration of any such jeopardised features must be effected in accordance with the principles of the Venice Charter, and the date of any complete replacement must be indicated. 

Article 14. 

The historic garden must be preserved in appropriate surroundings. Any alteration to the physical environment which will endanger the ecological equilibrium must be prohibited. These applications are applicable to all aspects of the infrastructure, whether internal or external (drainage works, irrigation systems, roads, car parks, fences, caretaking facilities, visitors' amenities, etc.). 


Article 15. 

No restoration work and, above all, no reconstruction work on a historic garden shall be undertaken without thorough prior research to ensure that such work is scientifically executed and which will involve everything from excavation to the assembling of records relating to the garden in question and to similar gardens. Before any practical work starts, a project must be prepared on the basis of said research and must be submitted to a group of experts for joint examination and approval. 

Article 16.

Restoration work must respect the successive stages of evolution of the garden concerned. In principle, no one period should be given precedence over any other, except in exceptional cases where the degree of damage or destruction affecting certain parts of a garden may be such that it is decided to reconstruct it on the basis of the traces that survive or of unimpeachable documentary evidence. Such reconstruction work might be undertaken more particularly on the parts of the garden nearest to the building it contains in order to bring out their significance in the design. 

Article 17. 

Where a garden has completely disappeared or there exists no more than conjectural evidence of its successive stages a reconstruction could not be considered a historic garden. 


Article 18. 

While any historic garden is designed to be seen and walked about in, access to it must be restricted to the extent demanded by its size and vulnerability, so that its physical fabric and cultural message may be preserved. 

Article 19. 

By reason of its nature and purpose, a historic garden is a peaceful place conducive to human contacts, silence and awareness of nature. This conception of its everyday use must contrast with its role on those rare occasions when it accommodates a festivity. Thus, the conditions of such occasional use of a historic garden should be clearly defined, in order that any such festivity may itself serve to enhance the visual effect of the garden instead of perverting or damaging it. 

Article 20. 

While historic gardens may be suitable for quiet games as a daily occurrence, separate areas appropriate for active and lively games and sports should also be laid out adjacent to the historic garden, so that the needs of the public may be satisfied in this respect without prejudice to the conservation of the gardens and landscapes. 

Article 21. 

The work of maintenance and conservation, the timing of which is determined by season and brief operations which serve to restore the garden's authenticity, must always take precedence over the requirements of public use. All arrangements for visits to historic gardens must be subjected to regulations that ensure the spirit of the place is preserved. 

Article 22. 

If a garden is walled, its walls may not be removed without prior examination of all the possible consequences liable to lead to changes in its atmosphere and to affect its preservation. 


Article 23. 

It is the task of the responsible authorities to adopt, on the advice of qualified experts, the appropriate legal and administrative measures for the identification, listing and protection of historic gardens. The preservation of such gardens must be provided for within the framework of land-use plans and such provision must be duly mentioned in documents relating to regional and local planning. It is also the task of the responsible authorities to adopt, with the advice of qualified experts, the financial measures which will facilitate the maintenance, conservation and restoration, and, where necessary, the reconstruction of historic gardens. 

Article 24. 

The historic garden is one of the features of the patrimony whose survival, by reason of its nature, requires intensive, continuous care by trained experts. Suitable provision should therefore be made for the training of such persons, whether historians, architects, landscape architects, gardeners or botanists. Care should also be taken to ensure that there is regular propagation of the plant varieties necessary for maintenance or restoration. 

Article 25. 

Interest in historic gardens should be stimulated by every kind of activity capable of emphasising their true value as part of the patrimony and making for improved knowledge and appreciation of them: promotion of scientific research; international exchange and circulation of information; publications, including works designed for the general public; the encouragement of public access under suitable control and use of the media to develop awareness of the need for due respect for nature and the historic heritage. The most outstanding of the historic gardens shall be proposed for inclusion in the World Heritage List. 

Nota Bene

The above recommendations are applicable to all the historic gardens in the world.

Additional clauses applicable to specific types of gardens may be subsequently appended to the present Charter with brief descriptions of the said types. 

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