Core Documents

Commentaries to the Guidelines for Practice

Commentary 20 - Preventive Conservation

Preventive Conservation is the mitigation of deterioration and damage to cultural property through the formulation and implementation of policies and procedures for the following: appropriate environmental conditions; handling and maintenance procedures for storage, exhibition, packing, transport, and use; integrated pest management; emergency preparedness and response; and reformatting/duplication. Preventive conservation is an ongoing process that continues throughout the life of cultural property, and does not end with interventive treatment.

  1. Rationale
    • To extend the life of cultural property.
    • To reduce the risk of catastrophic loss of cultural property.
    • To defer, reduce, or eliminate the need for interventive treatment.
    • To extend the effectiveness of interventive treatment.
    • To provide a cost-effective method for the preservation of collections.
    • To maximize impact of the conservation professional.
    • To encourage the conservation professional to employ the broadest range of preservation strategies (e.g., risk management, long-range planning, site protection).
    • To encourage the conservation professional to collaborate with others who have responsibility for the care of collections and cultural property (e.g., security and fire prevention personnel, facilities or site managers, collections managers, maintenance staffs).
    • To encourage the participation of others in the preservation of cultural property.
  2. Minimum Accepted Practice
    • Before considering interventive treatment, the conservator must consider whether preventive conservation options are more appropriate.
    • In the process of developing and implementing preventive conservation, the conservation professional must collaborate with appropriate personnel.
    • Before making recommendations for preventive conservation measures, the conservation professional must be conversant with the preservation-related conditions (e.g., temperature, relative humidity, pests, light, pollutants, housing materials) in which the cultural property or collection currently exists.
    • Because many preventive conservation actions are carried out by others, the conservation professional must be responsible for setting the standards under which these measures are carried out and for periodically reviewing their implementation. These standards must be in writing.
    • The conservation professional must employ or recommend only those preventive conservation measures that are currently accepted practice in the profession.
  3. Recommended Practice
    • Recommendations for preventive conservation should be in written form and supported by illustrative material where appropriate (format and level of detail may vary). These should specify:
      • methods, procedures, and suitable materials;
      • personnel requirements and qualifications (e.g., for in-house staff, contractor, volunteer).
    • Recommendations for preventive conservation should be integrated into an organization's operating procedures and be consistent with its long-range plans (for non-moveable cultural property, a Master Preservation Plan).
    • Following treatment, recommendations for preventive conservation measures should be included in the treatment report.
    • The conservation professional should participate in the education and training of others involved in preventive conservation.
  4. Special Practice
    • Special cultural or contextual considerations may influence preventive conservation measures taken for a specific cultural property (e.g., sacred, contemporary, conceptual ). In some cases a decision to allow deterioration to occur by avoiding certain preservation practices may be appropriate. Such decisions should be made only in collaboration with appropriate individuals connected with the cultural property.
    • The relocation of immovable or site-specific cultural property should be used only as a last resort preventive conservation measure (e.g., when moving a building will prevent its destruction).


Approved by the AIC Board October 1997