Core Documents

Code of Ethics and Guidelines for Practice


The first formulation of standards of practice and professional relations by any group of art conservators was produced by the IIC-American Group (now AIC) Committee on Professional Standards and Procedures. Formed at the second regular meeting of the IIC-AG, in Detroit, May 23, 1961, the committee worked under the direction of Murray Pease, conservator, Metropolitan Museum of Art; other members of the committee were Henri H. Courtais, Dudley T. Easby, Rutherford J. Gettens, and Sheldon Keck. The Report of the Murray Pease Committee: IIC American Group Standards of Practice and Professional Relations for Conservators was adopted by the IIC-AG at the 4th annual meeting in New York on June 8, 1963. It was published in Studies in Conservation in August 1964, 9(3):116–21. The primary purpose of this document was: “to provide accepted criteria against which a specific procedure or operation can be measured when a question as to its adequacy has been raised.”

The first formulation of a code of ethics for art conservators was adopted by the members of IIC-American Group at the annual meeting in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, on May 27, 1967. It was produced by the Committee on Professional Relations: Sheldon Keck, chair; Richard D. Buck; Dudley T. Easby; Rutherford J. Gettens; Caroline Keck; Peter Michaels, and Louis Pomerantz. The primary purpose of this document was: “to express those principles and practices which will guide the art conservator in the ethical practice of his profession.”

These two documents, The Murray Pease Report: Standards of Practice and Professional Relationships for Conservators and the Code of Ethics for Art Conservators were published in booklet form by the IIC-AG in May 1968 together with the Articles of Association of IIC and Bylaws of the American Group.

In 1977, the Ethics and Standards Committee (Elisabeth C. G. Packard, chair; Barbara H. Beardsley; Perry C. Huston; Kate C. Lefferts; Robert M. Organ; and Clements L. Robertson) was charged with updating the two documents to reflect changes in the profession. The 1968 format was retained, except that the more general Code of Ethics was placed first as Part One, followed by the Standards of Practice as Part Two. These revised versions of the code and standards were approved by the Fellows of AIC on May 31, 1979, at the annual meeting in Toronto. This document was amended on May 24, 1985, at the annual meeting in Washington, D.C., to reflect the addition to the AIC Bylaws of procedures for the reporting, investigation, and review of alleged violations of the code and standards and of mechanisms for appealing such allegations.

Between 1984 and 1990 the Ethics and Standards Committee, responding to further growth and change in the profession, and following on several years of AIC discussion on the issue of certification, was charged by the AIC Board to work on more substantial revisions of the document. This was done by soliciting commentary from the specialty groups and also from the membership via issues sessions at the annual meetings in Chicago (1986) and Cincinnati (1989). Following this, a document consisting of a new simplified Code, prepared by the committee, and a revised Standards, prepared primarily by the board was presented to the membership for discussion at the 1990 annual meeting in Richmond. The consensus of the membership at the meeting was to continue the revision process. During these important years, the members of the committee were, Elisabeth Batchelor, chair; Robert Futernick; Meg Loew Craft (until 1989); Elizabeth Lunning (from 1987); Carol C. Mancusi-Ungaro; and Philip Vance (until 1986). In 1989, the committee added corresponding members Barbara Appelbaum, Paul N. Banks, Steven Prins, and Elisabeth West FitzHugh.

In 1990, the AIC Board charged a newly appointed committee to assess the role and use of the two parts of the Code of Ethics and Standards for Practice and as well to analyze specific difficulties within them. The committee first undertook an in-depth comparative analysis of the two sections, organizing them topically and relating them to other codes of ethics both in conservation and in other professions. Between September 1991 and May 1992, the committee produced five lengthy discussion papers on basic issues as supplements to the AIC News (prior to November 1991, the AIC Newsletter).

From these papers, the committee compiled an extensive body of commentary from the membership and specialty groups, supplementing that obtained previously. It then began the creation of a new revision of the entire document, the first draft of which was published in the September 1993 AIC News following a discussion session at the 1993 annual meeting in Denver. A revised draft was published in the May 1994 AIC News and discussed at the 1994 annual meeting in Nashville.

The final version of the document, consisting of a new simplified Code of Ethics and the creation of Guidelines for Practice to replace the Standards of Practice, was prepared and was approved by AIC Fellows and Professional Associates through a mail vote in August 1994. The goals and purposes of the committee and the problematic issues it sought to address in creating the revised document are fully described in the committee’s columns in the September 1991 AIC Newsletter and September 1993 AIC News.

Ethics and Standards Committee members from 1990 through 1994 and involved in the creation of the revised Code and Guidelines were: Debbie Hess Norris (chair, resigned 1993); Donna K. Strahan (co-chair 1993–94, chair 1994); Carol Aiken (co-chair from 1993, resigned 1994); Nancy Ash; Dan Kushel; Robert Espinosa (from 1993); and Paul Himmelstein (from 1994).


An integral part of the revision plan was also to initiate the creation of a second document, Commentaries to the Guidelines for Practice, upon final approval of the Code and Guidelines.  Proposed to the committee by then AIC President Paul Himmelstein, this document was designed to amplify and define current accepted practice for each of the Guidelines while accommodating the individual needs of each area of professional specialization, and as well, allowing for future growth and change in practice through a simplified amendment process.  Among core documents of professional conservation organizations, the AIC Commentaries are unique.

 The creation of the Commentaries began in 1995, with full involvement of all AIC Specialty Groups and the Ethics and Standards Committee.  The working process is fully described in the March 1995 AIC News.  A Commentaries Task Force chaired by Paul Himmelstein was created in 1999 to further facilitate the process.  The first Commentaries (24-28 on documentation) were approved by the Board in 1996. The final Commentaries, completing the set for all twenty-nine Guidelines, were finished in 2000 and approved by the AIC Board in May 2001.
Major revisions of Commentaries 24 and 28, to accommodate the transition to digital documentation in conservation practice were developed by the AIC Digital Photographic Documentation Task Force chaired by Jeffrey Warda and were approved by the AIC Board in 2008.  A detailed discussion of these revisions appears in  Jeffrey Warda, ed. “The AIC Guide to Photography and Conservation Documentation,  Second Edition, 2011, Chapter 5, part 6.
Historical background prepared by:
Elisabeth C. G. Packard, Chair, Ethics and Standards Committee 1977–79
Amended May 24, 1985
Revised August 1994; revised and amended February 2015,  Dan Kushel, member (1990-94) and Chair, Ethics and Standards Committee 1995-96