Core Documents

Commentaries to the Guidelines for Practice

Commentary 24 - Documentation

  1. Rationale
  2. Minimum Accepted Practice
    • The obligation to produce documentation cannot be waived for any reason.
    • All records should include:
      • the purpose of the documentation;
      • the name of the documentor;
      • the date of the document.
    • A written record should be made any time that cultural property is examined, analyzed, sampled, treated, altered, and/or damaged and when cultural property is temporarily under the care or study of the conservation professional. Formats of these written records may vary from complete narratives to annotated graphics. Records may be combined where appropriate. This written record must include information that uniquely identifies the cultural property. Examples of such information are:
      • accession number, registration number, or street address;
      • owner/custodian;
      • maker/origin;
      • subject/title/scientific classification;
      • measurements;
      • marks/labels/prominent site features;
      • date of creation;
      • site location and boundaries.
    • All components of the documentation (written and graphic) should be clearly labeled to identify them as part of this record. For digital files, such identifying information can be added to the file’s metadata for clarification. The AIC Guide to Digital Photography and Conservation Documentation provides recommendations on the use of metadata for digital image files. Media containing digital files should also be appropriately marked externally to indicate the content.
    • In determining appropriate format for and content of documentation, the conservation professional should follow recommendations developed by AIC specialty groups, relevant task forces or committees, and may also wish to consult an attorney.

  3. Recommended Practice
    • In determining the extent of documentation (both written and graphic), the conservation professional, in consultation with the owner/custodian, should consider the nature of the conservation activity, the significance of the cultural property, available resources, and any relevant legal requirements.
    • In written documentation and labeling of graphic documentation, the conservation professional should use terminology generally accepted within the profession and should amplify the record as necessary to make it understandable to the owner/custodian.
      • Associated records (e.g., previous conservation documents, curatorial records, Historic Structure Reports, excavation reports) should be incorporated into or cited in the documentation created.
  4. Special Practices
    • Certain circumstances may affect the extent or form of documentation as described above. Among these are:
      • disaster response;
      • impending destruction;
      • emergency treatment;
      • minor remedial treatment;
      • mass treatment (i.e., identical or similar routine treatment carried out on batches of collection materials);
      • collection assessments and surveys;
      • preventive care/cyclical maintenance.

Originally Approved by the AIC Board October 1996
Revisions Approved by the AIC Board September 2008