Core Documents

Commentaries to the Guidelines for Practice

Commentary 18 - Interpretation

  1. Rationale
    • The field of conservation deals with the physical aspect of cultural property and is valued in part for the information it provides through examination and scientific investigation. It is assumed that statements by a conservation professional regarding age, origin or authenticity of a cultural property are based on knowledge derived from the physical evidence. There is a risk that others will assume that all statements are substantiated by physical evidence, even when this is not the case.
  2. Minimum Accepted Practice
    • Statements made by a conservation professional about age, origin or authenticity must be based on physical evidence derived directly from cultural property.
    • Opinions not based on physical evidence must be clearly identified as such.
    • With regard to age, provenance or authenticity studies, the conservation professional must explain that scientific data cannot provide definitive attribution, but can provide information that shows whether a particular cultural property is consistent with other cultural property from a certain time period, from a specific place of origin, from a certain maker, etc.
    • In interpreting data derived from examination and scientific investigation, the conservation professional must conform to established norms of scientific integrity, and must indicate limitations of the data and the limitations of the interpretation method.
    • The interpretation must become part of the permanent documentation.
  3. Recommended Practice
    • A conservation professional should refrain from making statements based solely on opinions not rooted in physical evidence.


Approved by the AIC Board October 1998.