Definitions of Conservation Terminology

The legacy of our collective cultural heritage enriches our lives. Each generation has a responsibility to maintain and to protect this heritage for the benefit of succeeding generations. Those who care for cultural property – the material aspects of that heritage – use special terminology as defined by the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (AIC) as follows:

Conservation: The profession devoted to the preservation of cultural property for the future. Conservation activities include examination, documentation, treatment, and preventive care, supported by research and education.

Examination: The investigation of the structure, materials, and condition of cultural property including the identification of the extent and causes of alteration and deterioration.

Documentation: The recording in a permanent format of information derived from conservation activities.

Treatment: The deliberate alteration of the chemical and/or physical aspects of cultural property, aimed primarily at prolonging its existence. Treatment may consist of stabilization and/or restoration.

Stabilization: Treatment procedures intended to maintain the integrity of cultural property and to minimize deterioration.

Restoration: Treatment procedures intended to return cultural property to a known or assumed state, often through the addition of non-original material.

Preventive Care: (also referred to as preventive conservation): 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.

Cultural Property: Objects, collections, specimens, structures, or sites identified as having artistic, historic, scientific, religious, or social significance.

Preservation: The protection of cultural property through activities that minimize chemical and physical deterioration and damage and that prevent loss of informational content. The primary goal of preservation is to prolong the existence of cultural property.

Conservator: A professional whose primary occupation is the practice of conservation and who, through specialized education, knowledge, training, and experience, formulates and implements all the activities of conservation in accordance with an ethical code such as the AIC Code of Ethics and Guidelines for Practice.