Core Documents

Commentaries to the Guidelines for Practice

Commentary 27 - Documentation of Treatment

  1. Rationale
    • To ensure that information about the treatment and information obtained during that treatment are preserved.
    • Dated documentation (e.g., laboratory notes, photographs, work logs) and the report prepared from these records:
      • document procedures used during treatment, and variations from the treatment plan;
      • document materials added to or removed from the cultural property;
      • document changes in the cultural property as a result oftreatment, including its state after treatment;
      • document new information about the cultural property;
      • serve to prevent unnecessary future analysis and treatment;
      • serve as a basis for planning future treatments of the cultural property, including preventive care;
      • serve as a basis for evaluating the safety and efficacy of materials, techniques, and procedures;
      • provide evidence of the actions of the conservation professional.
  2. Minimum Accepted Practice
    • A dated record of all treatment actions and the name(s) of those performing those actions must be maintained during the course of treatment. The form of this record may vary as appropriate (e.g., laboratory notes, annotated photographs, work log). Information recorded only on audio tape, video tape, or computer must be transferred to hard copy in a timely manner.
    • In addition to dated graphic documentation produced during examination (e.g., "before-treatment" photograph, see Commentary 25, Section B), dated graphic documentation must be produced to record:
      • all aspects revealed during treatment that will be obscured after treatment (e.g., "during-treatment" photograph);
      • the final appearance of the cultural property after treatment (e.g.,"after-treatment").
    • A treatment report must be prepared from these records. While the form of this treatment report may vary, it must include:
      • name of conservator responsible for the treatment;
      • date of report;
      • date of completion of treatment;
      • information that uniquely identifies the cultural property (see Commentary 24, section B);
      • accurate and complete description of all procedures used;
      • deviations from the proposed treatment;
      • a list of all added materials that remain with the cultural property after treatment, cited by manufacturer and proprietary name, and if known, by chemical name or composition;
      • composition of materials used in treatment that do not become part of the cultural property, but may have a bearing on future examination, maintenance, and treatment (e.g., cleaning agents, solvents, bleaching agents, surfactants, enzymes, electrolyte solutions, poultices) which also must be listed in the log and included in the report. (Sources of these materials, cited by manufacturer and proprietary name, and by chemical name or composition (if known) should be included where appropriate.);
      • description of material removed during treatment or obscured by treatment;
      • new information about the cultural property revealed during treatment;
      • all appropriate graphic documentation (e.g., "before-treatment", "during-treatment", "after-treatment" photographs).
  3. Recommended Practice
    • Treatment procedures and materials considered, but not chosen, should be discussed, particularly if the reasons for their rejection may aid in future treatment decisions.
    • Treatment procedures undertaken but limited in application by time, by circumstance, or by characteristics of the cultural property should be discussed in the treatment report.
    • Recommendations should be made for subsequent preventive care and maintenance.
    • All graphic documentation should include:
      • information that uniquely identifies the cultural property;
      • date;
      • size scale.
    • In addition to the above, all photographic documentation should include:
      • color and gray scales;
      • a light direction indicator;
      • photogrammetric and point-of view indicators, if required.
    • So that changes in the appearance of the cultural property due to treatment are accurately depicted, graphic documentation produced for comparative purposes should be produced under conditions that minimize variations in illumination, image size, background, point of view, etc.
    • Assisting conservators, other conservation professionals, consultants, and contractors should be cited in the treatment report.
    • A summary of the treatment time and costs may be included.
  4. Special Practice
    • During emergencies, a log should be maintained as circumstances permit (see Commentary 24, Section D). A complete treatment report must be prepared subsequently.
    • Treatment logs for large groups of similar objects/elements (e.g., archaeological finds, library collections, systematic collections) should record the general treatments and any variations. The treatment report may cover the group as a whole, but variations applied to individual objects/elements should be stated. Graphic documentation may be of representative objects/elements and treatments.
    • Treatment logs and reports for an individual object/element made of many similar components (e.g., books, feather cloaks, balustrade), should record variations applied to individual components. Graphic documentation may be of representative components.
    • Treatment logs and reports for components (e.g., windows of a building, wheels of a railroad engine) of a large, complex cultural property may be limited to the components treated, but the components must be clearly located and identified.
    • For minor remedial treatment, brief notes may suffice for a treatment log and report, but they must include:
      • information that uniquely identifies the cultural property;
      • date;
      • name of person performing treatment;
      • a general description of treatment.
    • Routine maintenance procedures (e.g., dusting, refoldering documents) covered by written policy may not require additional documentation.
    • Experimental, unusual, and high-risk treatments may require more extensive documentation.
    • Decision-making processes crucial to understanding the treatment of the cultural property should be documented.


Approved by the AIC Board October 1996.