Core Documents

Commentaries to the Guidelines for Practice

Commentary 14 - Conflict of Interest

Conflicts of interest arise when the conservation professional is in a position to make decisions or representations which could promote goals, desires, opinions, or personal gain that come into opposition with the preservation of cultural property.

The conservation professional should be mindful that the appearance of a conflict of interest, or impropriety, can be as damaging to the credibility and integrity of the conservation profession as an actual act.

  1. Rationale
    • To ensure that decisions made and actions taken by conservation professionals do not compromise the preservation of cultural property.
    • To maintain the credibility and integrity of the conservation profession, particularly as it is viewed by allied professions and the public.
  2. Minimum Accepted Practice
    • Conservation professionals must remove themselves from situations in which the potential for a real or perceived conflict of interest exists. Such situations may include: monetary gain from the sale of a cultural property examined or treated by the conservation professional; providing an opinion on the suitability for loan of a cultural property to be loaned to the conservation professional's institution; giving an opinion to a potential client about a colleague's abilities when the colleague is also a competitor.
    • Any direct vested interest in an endorsed product or procedure must be stated, and justification for the endorsement must be supported by independent testing. The selection of a product or procedure must be governed by the needs of the cultural property. (See Commentaries 21 and 22)
  3. Recommended Practice
    • If a conservation professional is asked to provide information about a colleague to an owner, custodian or authorized agent, the potential for a conflict of interest, real or perceived, may be created. In such circumstances the conservation professional should acknowledge the conflict and may recommend that another professional opinion be sought, as outlined in Commentary 10.
    • Frequently institutions are contacted by members of the public for referrals for conservation work. A conflict of interest may arise if a conservation professional employed by an institution also has a private practice and, when asked for a referral, provides only a self-referral. The conflict is between the objectivity expected of one who holds a position in an institution and the self-interest of the same person acting as a private practitioner. The conflict can be resolved by providing more than one referral. It is recommended that a list of names and contact information be provided.


Approved by the AIC Board January 2000.