Core Documents

Commentaries to the Guidelines for Practice

Commentary 7 - Confidentiality

Confidentiality covers all information derived from examination, scientific investigation or treatment of a cultural property, as well as the relationship with the owner, custodian or authorized agent.

  1. Rationale
    • Confidentiality is maintained to:
      • Protect the interests, rights, and privacy of the owner, custodian, or authorized agent, whether private individual or public institution.
      • Maintain the credibility of the profession by honoring the generally accepted practice of professional/client confidentiality.
    • Written permission to disseminate information is obtained to:
      • Authorize conservation professionals to use otherwise confidential information in their professional activities (e.g., publications, scientific investigations, public presentations).
      • Further evolution and growth in the profession by assuring access to otherwise confidential documentation of examination, treatment and scientific investigation. (see Code of Ethics , X)
  2. Minimum Accepted Practice
    • Information that is obtained or uncovered in the course of examination, treatment or scientific investigation conducted at the service of, and with the consent of the owner, custodian, or authorized agent, must be treated as confidential and must not be disclosed or otherwise made public without prior written consent.
  3. Recommended Practice
    • The conservation professional should include in contracts with the owner, custodian or authorized agent a clause giving permission for the use of documentation or other materials for educational and research purposes (e.g., publication, public presentations, training, archival research). However, the conservation professional must respect the right of the owner, custodian or authorized agent to refuse such permission.
    • In publications and presentations, it is recommended that the identity of the owner, custodian or authorized agent should remain confidential unless otherwise authorized.
  4. Special Practice
    • In certain circumstances (e.g., life-safety situations, suspected stolen property, legal proceedings), the expectation of confidentiality is superceded by legal obligations of the conservation professional. The owner, custodian or authorized agent should be informed of impending breach of confidentiality, unless there is a legal reason not to do so.
    • In presentations to colleagues or the public, the use of information not attributable by the audience to any specific cultural property is permissible, without prior written consent.


Approved by the AIC Board November 1999.