Core Documents

Commentaries to the Guidelines for Practice

Commentary 15 - Related Professional Activity

In this Commentary, the word "authentication" refers to an activity performed on tangible cultural property. It does not refer to verification activities related to digital files or analog signals.

  1. Rationale
    • The conservation activities carried out by conservation professionals may contribute to the authentication of cultural property, and may help to establish a value for a cultural property. There is a potential conflict of interest associated with these activities when the conservation professional stands to gain from increased value or heightened prestige of the cultural property. Directly appraising or dealing in cultural property significantly increases the potential for conflict of interest.
    • The goals of art dealing (buying and selling cultural property for profit), authentication and appraisal may differ or conflict with the goals of preservation of cultural property in the following ways:
      • These related professional activities may place the conservation professional in a situation where there is a conflict between the needs of the cultural property and the motive for profit. This may affect the choice of treatment, extent and nature of documentation, etc.
      • The conservation professional carrying out authentication and condition assessment of cultural property may be influenced by the prestige imparted by association with cultural property that is rare, famous or of high monetary value. This may affect the interpretation of data, judgement of condition, etc.
  2. Minimum Accepted Practice
    • When acting in any of the above capacities, the conservation professional must always place the preservation needs of the cultural property first.
    • When authenticating cultural property, the conservation professional must follow the requirements as stated in Commentary 18, "Interpretation."
    • The conservation professional must not provide a formal or informal appraisal of a cultural property when the same conservation professional may treat it.
    • The conservation professional is in a unique position, through training and experience, to obtain technical information about a cultural property (e.g., condition, past treatment, materials). When acting as dealers, conservation professionals must disclose all such information they possess.
    • When acting as both conservation professional and dealer, with the same cultural property, the conservation professional must not allow potential sale to compromise the choice of an appropriate treatment.
    • When acting as a representative of a company selling a particular product or procedure, the conservation professional must follow the Minimum Accepted Practice in Commentary 14, "Conflict of Interest."
  3. Recommended Practice
    • Conservation professionals should not engage in the dealing of cultural property in their areas of specialization because conflicts of interest are likely to occur.
    • The conservation professional should refer an owner's/custodian's request for authentication or appraisal of cultural property in the care of the conservation professional to an independent party.
    • Conservation professionals should avoid the use of the terms ìappraisalî and ìauthenticationî in their conservation work. The word ìassessmentî better describes the process of determining quality, significance, or nature of a cultural property.
    • When acting as a dealer or appraiser, the conservation professional should follow the laws and regulations governing those activities.
  4. Special Practice
    • Conservation professionals who become expert in a particular artist/maker or genre/style may be uniquely qualified to be involved both in the authentication and treatment of a particular cultural property. In this situation the conservation professional must disclose the potential conflict of interest to the owner/custodian. and must be mindful about the possible influence of one activity on the other.
    • Cultural property that has been abandoned or is under a mechanics lien may be sold by the conservation professional, following all applicable laws and regulations. This is not considered dealing.


Approved by the AIC Board November 1999.