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A European Recommendation for the Conservation-Restoration of cultural heritage

One step towards greater recognition of the role of Conservation-Restoration at European level
Monica Martelli Castaldi, David Aguilella Cueco, Jeremy Hutchings and E.C.C.O. European Confederation of Conservator-Restorer’s Organisations
Une « recommandation pour la conservation-restauration du patrimoine culturel » [fr]


The draft of the first European Recommendation for the Conservation-Restoration of Cultural Heritage proposed by E.C.C.O., written with the support of ICCROM and participation of ENCoRE signifies a further step towards guaranteeing preservation of cultural heritage and greater recognition of the actors in this field. The Recommendation takes into consideration the need to define and regulate the field itself as a whole. This article presents this document and places it within the context of the work carried out by E.C.C.O. which includes other efforts to define the Conservation-Restoration profession, raise awareness and ensure the continued preservation of cultural heritage as a whole.

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This paper is written on behalf of E.C.C.O., the authors would like to thank Vincent Negri and Catherine Antomarchi (ICCROM) for their support and significant input into this article, Daniel Thérond, former Head of Department of Culture and Cultural Heritage for the Council of Europe, Mounir Bouchenaki former Director General of ICCROM, Stefano De Caro current  Director General of ICCROM for their support of this work and to Susan Corr (Chair of E.C.C.O.) for her efforts to take this work forward.


1For the European institutions just as the European States it is beyond doubt that cultural heritage is a fundamental expression of the richness and diversity of its culture and its preservation is thus considered as of the utmost importance. It is also beyond question that Conservation-Restoration makes an irreplaceable contribution to the preservation and dissemination of knowledge of our common cultural heritage for the benefit of present and future generations. The European Confederation of Conservator-Restorer’s Organisations (E.C.C.O.) has, since its foundation in 1991, worked unceasingly towards greater guarantees for the preservation of European heritage and increased recognition of the role of Conservation-Restoration in this endeavour. The first European Recommendation for the Conservation-Restoration of Cultural Heritage represents a further step by E.C.C.O. towards achieving these objectives. Drawn up and proposed to the Council of Europe (CoE) with the support of ICCROM, the International Center for the Study of Conservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM) and the participation of the European Network of Conservation-Restoration Education, (ENCoRE), this document is presented together with a brief history of the efforts leading up to its creation, comments on its current status and suggestions for the future.

Basis for the Proposed Recommendation

2In Europe the definition and protection of cultural heritage is first and foremost the responsibility of States. Each State formulates its own concept of national cultural heritage in terms of its history and the cultural values in its territory.  While legislation to protect cultural heritage at national level is prevalent, most States lack specific regulation of Conservation-Restoration.The Recommendation represents a step towards addressing this shortfall making explicit its objectives, measures and principles.

  • 1  The common term of Conservator-Restorer has been agreed as title among the member organisations of (...)

3As will be shown, the events leading up to the creation of the Recommendation stretch back over a decade. The APEL project completed in 2001 identified serious lacunae in national legislations in Europe with regard to the definition and regulation of the Conservation-Restoration profession: the protection and conservation of cultural heritage remains the responsibility of each Member State, which has obviously had a direct effect on how the Conservator-Restorer and other professional groups in the field practice their professions. For the Conservator-Restorer, the level of professional regulation varies widely from State to State. The use of the professional title1can often depend on conditions and levels of training as defined by those European States that have established specific laws for this field, while in many other States such laws do not exist.

  • 2  Referring to legislation that is not directed at any one group or profession and therefore does no (...)

4At a European level the provisions regarding occupational qualifications, access and exercise specific to this profession (and for that matter for many other professions within the field of cultural heritage) are only of a “general order”2, relating primarily to systems of recognition of academic qualifications. There are no specific rules that take into account the specialist nature of Conservation-Restoration. Furthermore, the diversity of national measures addressing the protection and conservation of cultural heritage do not favour the adoption of common protocols that recognise the role, function and contribution of the Conservator-Restorer in this process. Many of these legislative measures neither clarify the procedures nor the professional qualifications for the execution of all steps in the conservation process, nor the roles and responsibilities of those carrying them out. This lack of specificity compromises the effectiveness of the principles of protection intended by the legislation that is in place and impacts negatively on the recognition of professional Conservator-Restorers.

  • 3  The Treaty on European Union, Title 1 – Common Provisions :

5The Treaty of the European Union (TEU), Aims of the Union, Article 3.3, §4, states that “The Union shall respect its rich cultural and linguistic diversity, and shall ensure that Europe’s cultural heritage is safeguarded and enhanced”.3However, the European Union does not have direct competences in the field; it may not legislate, nor adopt legally binding acts in the field of protection and conservation of the cultural heritage. Nevertheless, the Council of Europe has competences in that field which can develop conventions and recommendations, that States can implement in their national legal system.

6The objective of the proposed Recommendation, presented below, is to provide a reference text for European States – members of the Council of Europe – in order to provide those in European Union a normative framework to improve their legal system. It is a common standard based on principles broadly recognised by Conservation-Restoration professionals, which potentially gives it strong political and legal value. The text reinforces the specific nature of the Conservation-Restoration field as well as the principles underpinning the preservation of European cultural heritage, and is equally valid for all other professional bodies and interested parties in the field.

7The Recommendation develops essential elements of an ethical and deontological nature on which the discipline is based and which European States are invited to incorporate in their national legislation. It falls within the scope of the regulatory framework developed by the Council of Europe in relation to the preservation of the cultural heritage, represents a partial extension of the principles of the framework convention on the Value of Cultural Heritage for Society, Faro 27th October 2005.

Events leading to the creation of the Recommendation

8Since its foundation, E.C.C.O. has worked unceasingly towards greater recognition of the Conservator-Restorer within Europe. While this has been the original mandate from its members, it has resulted in real improvements in the protection of heritage and in the organisation of the field as a whole. If accepted by the Council of Europe the proposed Recommendation represents further progress towards these goals. To demonstrate both its significance and context, a brief historical review of the circumstances that created its necessity is presented below.

9In some respects the review that follows charts the history of E.C.C.O. from its inception to the present day. It identifies, inter alia, an initial phase where much effort was devoted to defining Conservation-Restoration and its unique nature and a current phase which focuses more on the special competences of the Conservator-Restorer, the crucial role of this profession in the preservation of common cultural heritage and the recognition that this deserves at EU level. In working towards common regulation, E.C.C.O. puts forward the case for both a specific EU and international juridical framework and a greater level of harmonisation with regard to self-regulation within Member States. The European Recommendation represents a step towards both.

10E.C.C.O. was founded in 1991 by representatives of national professional bodies in a number of European member States, joining in a concerted effort to create an overall “umbrella organisation” to act on behalf of the Conservation-Restoration profession. During its 22 years of existence the Confederation has worked towards a definition of the profession and greater protection of cultural heritage through ensuring that only people with appropriate competences can carry out the Conservation-Restoration process.

  • 4  The E.C.C.O. Professional Guidelines pt. III were revised in 2004
  • 5  “Acteurs du Patrimoine Européen et Législation”

11In the early years of E.C.C.O.’s activities, progress was made through a detailed definition of the Conservator-Restorer and the establishment of principles for the regulation of access to and exercise of the profession. This was articulated as the Professional Guidelines I, II and III, covering both education and practice, published between 1993 and 19944. They remain universal texts to which many national and international organisations refer. As these principles became more broadly accepted, E.C.C.O. has refocused its efforts towards greater protection of heritage. It is this area in which the proposed Recommendation is located. The direction of this work stems from the E.C.C.O. co-ordinated APEL5project, launched in 1998 and financed under the EU Raphael programme, supported by the European Commission DGX and ICCROM. This represented the first time that E.C.C.O. was acknowledged as a consultative body in the economic and political context of EU policies, and that Conservation-Restoration was recognised as a distinct profession throughout Europe.

12The principle objective of APEL was to survey legislation concerning the preservation of cultural heritage throughout Europe. It achieved this by analysing the Conservation-Restoration process in 14 European countries, paying particular attention to the role of the Conservator-Restorer in relation to other actors within the field, and comparing the exercise of the profession with the regulatory framework for the protection of heritage in force in each State at that time. The results provided an overview of the legal frameworks regulating the preservation of cultural heritage, identified common aspects in European countries and, most importantly, highlighted where weaknesses in legislation existed. The key outcomes included a demonstration of broadly relevant common interests and a set of guidelines to unify methodologies and control procedures at European level. It confirmed the need for a set of recommendations to be agreed by countries at European level. In addition, a legal bibliography was produced together with documentary material and a proposal for a dictionary of legal terms relating to Conservation-Restoration. As such it represents the foundation for much of the subsequent work carried out by E.C.C.O. including the Recommendation presented below.

  • 6 Martelli Castaldi, M., Negri, V., Legal issues of the Conservation Restoration profession, presente (...)

13The failure to include or even allude to Conservation-Restoration highlights the lack of recognition of Conservation-Restoration process as a critical part of cultural heritage preservation; one that contains a high level of risk and therefore must be executed and closely controlled by appropriately qualified Conservator-Restorers. Whenever references to Conservation-Restoration were present, the juridical responsibility, control procedures required by law, duties and qualifications of the person carrying out that role were not clearly specified.6 In short, the laws in place during the APEL project neither recognised these aspects of heritage preservation nor acknowledged the specific nature of this profession. Not much has changed at European level since completion of the APEL project, even if in several countries the legislation in these matters has improved considerably.

14When examining European legislation, it is obvious that the EU neither has nor wants decision-making power in cultural heritage policy. However the EU does exercise a degree of power – supporting, coordinating or supplementing the actions of Member States – through certain cultural heritage policies, programmes and actions.7 There are also rules in place for the regulation of import, export and claim on cultural goods. At a national level, legislation that safeguards cultural heritage via the control of those who execute Conservation-Restoration now exists in a few countries within Europe, and in several of those countries wishing to join the EU. In some cases it extends to legislation on their qualifications. For example, in 2004 the Italian Constitutional Court8ruled that the attribution of the title of Conservator-Restorer is part of the protection of cultural heritage. Although this should be seen as a benchmark ruling and a significant step in the protection of cultural heritage, in many countries the situation remains the same, while in Northern Europe there is little or no legal jurisdiction as to who can practice as a Conservator-Restorer. In some instances, there are international legal instruments, for example the Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity9 adopted by UNESCO in 2001,10 where the cultural heritage field is named but the need for preservation is not explicitly stated. There are, however, no similar international legal instruments respecting Conservation-Restoration as an essential function in the protection of cultural heritage.

15From the outset E.C.C.O. has held the view that the preservation of cultural heritage is best served through a well-defined and well-regulated Conservation-Restoration profession, one that is acknowledged as having a distinct and critical role within the heritage sector, and which in some respect extends to a wider social role.  While Conservation-Restoration is an integral part of heritage preservation, its situation is not unique; it represents just one profession within the heritage sector and all require recognition.  For better regulation to be achieved, a general system of common legislation is essential, based on the acknowledgement of universally accepted values. Such a system would aid the development of a set of principles which would strengthen culture in Europe and reinforce the concept of Europe as a united entity.

16Following the APEL project, E.C.C.O. continued to work towards gaining the status of regulated profession, initially via the Directive on Mutual Recognition of Professional Qualifications.11 This has not always been easy, the different agendas and imperatives of E.C.C.O. members have sometimes prevented efforts to move towards this goal. One such case, which directly influenced the decision to create the Recommendation, was the work to profile the profession, which started in 2002. Its aim was the creation of a specific profile, intended as a proposal for the European Parliament legislative resolution on the Directive on the Recognition of Professional Qualifications.12 Having agreed a draft profile, difficulty arose between E.C.C.O members regarding how the work could be progressed. These reflected the nature of the template itself and perceived incompatibilities between access to the profession via accreditation systems that focus on professional experience and access solely via academic qualification. In reality, it was difficult to use a professional profile that was perceived to restrict the educational routes into the profession as a platform from which Conservation-Restoration could be included in the Directive on Professional Qualifications. Furthermore, during this period of debate the Directive on Professional Qualifications came into force making it more difficult to proceed. This led to the conclusion that greater recognition and regulation would have to be sought by E.C.C.O. both at national level, from its member’s lobbying in their own countries, and at European level through a more political approach.

  • 13 E.C.C.O. (2010) Competences for access to the Conservation-Restoration Profession  

17The legal expert Vincent Negri advised a strategy that addressed the Council of Europe (CoE) directly through its Steering Committee for Cultural Heritage and Landscape (CDPATEP), which signified the start point of the European Recommendation. The professional profiling work was not, however, in vain. The need to map precisely the competence required to gain access to the profession was acknowledged at the E.C.C.O. 2007 General Assembly. Although there were differences in opinion over the content of the professional profile, consensus was reached over the need to identify the specialist competences of the Conservator-Restorer. The need for specific educational descriptors for the profession had already been raised in a meeting with Mr Jan Figel, the EU Commissioner for Education, Training, Culture and Multilingualism in November 2006, where E.C.C.O. was alerted to the potential of the forthcoming European Qualification Framework (EQF) Directive as a means of addressing the outstanding issue of the professional profile. This work started in 2007, and continued in parallel with the Recommendation to which it is complementary. The result was published in English in 2010 and French, German, Italian and Spanish in 2013.13

  • 14  Mounir Bouchenaky former Director General, Catherine Antomarchi and Rosalia Varoli Piazza
  • 15  René Larsen, President and Wolfgang Baatz
  • 16  Monica Martelli Castaldi, Michael Van Gompen and David Aguilella Cueco
  • 17 Comité Directeur de la Culture, du Patrimoine et du Paysage / Steering Committee for Culture, Herit (...)
  • 18  For a more detailed history read Martelli Castaldi and Aguilella Cueco paper in the E.C.C.O. 20th (...)

18The text of the Recommendation was elaborated by V. Negri and M. Martelli Castaldi over the course of a year, with the support of ICCROM14, the participation of ENCoRE15 and a working group of E.C.C.O.16. Following a period of consultation, a final version was ratified in 2009 at the E.C.C.O. Presidents' Meeting and General Assembly in Sofia, Bulgaria. The Recommendation was consequently presented at the next meeting of the CDPATEP, in Strasbourg, in May 2009. On this occasion, the proposal generates interest, however to follow the usual procedure a working group of CDPATEP was established to examine the text. Unfortunately, the working group never convened and in 2012 the CDPATEP was replaced by a new Steering Committee for Culture, Heritage and Landscape (CDCPP)17. Thishas naturally caused further delays in the examination of the Recommendation, which remains a proposal to CoE.18

Concluding Comments

  • 19  Vincent Negri, legal consultant to E.C.C.O. is currently drafting guidelines for the transposition (...)

19The Recommendation represents part of an on-going effort to enhance the preservation of cultural heritage through better definition, recognition and regulation of the field. It complements other efforts pursued by E.C.C.O. including a description of the competence for access to the profession, described in the previous section, and participation in the European Committee for Standardisation’s Technical Committee for the Conservation of Cultural Property (CEN/TC346). A common terminology and recognised process, formalised through CEN, makes a significant contribution. As has already been illustrated, legislation of cultural heritage at national level is prevalent but in most cases lacks specific regulation of Conservation-Restoration and for this reason an action is required at European Union level, especially considering that Conservation-Restoration has received a juridical pronouncement that it is a crucial part of the protection of cultural heritage. The adoption of this Recommendation at European level will contribute to addressing existing insufficienciesand will hopefully lead to the creation of a legally binding contribution to the sustainable management of our common cultural heritage.Its transposition into national legal frameworks, while promoting a unified approach, will also allow flexibility regarding the form and methods of its implementation. Such an approach respects the sovereignty of each State regarding its cultural heritage, history and identity19 while also respects the human right to benefit from a collective heritage and build the cultural heritage of their communities for future generations.

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1  The common term of Conservator-Restorer has been agreed as title among the member organisations of E.C.C.O., however some countries use their own national (and even regional) titles in addition e.g.: xxx in Slovakia, restauratore in Italy, restaurateur en France, Spain.

2  Referring to legislation that is not directed at any one group or profession and therefore does not focus in detail on its specific nature.

3  The Treaty on European Union, Title 1 – Common Provisions : 21.08.13)

4  The E.C.C.O. Professional Guidelines pt. III were revised in 2004

5  “Acteurs du Patrimoine Européen et Législation”

6 Martelli Castaldi, M., Negri, V., Legal issues of the Conservation Restoration profession, presented on behalf of E.C.C.O. at the 7th European Congress ‘Sauveur’, Safeguarded Cultural Heritage- Understanding & Viability for the Enlarged Europe, Prague 31st  May – 3rd  June 2006

7  European Commission/Culture/Cultural Heritage (accessed 5.08.13)

8  Corte Costituzionale Italiana - Sentenza n. 9/2004 It is attributed to the State the exclusive legislative power and the consequent regulatory power relating to the protection of cultural and environmental heritage, which thus attributes to the State the protection of the primary requirements of the safeguard, which is the basis of all legislation on cultural heritage. The Court therefore considers, in the light of the above considerations, that the attribution of the title of Conservator-Restorer of cultural heritage, for movable objects and for decorated surfaces of the architecture, is part of the protection of cultural heritage, since it concerns the restoration of the same, which is one of the core activities in which the protection is exercised...”

9 5.08.13)

10  see also the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, Paris, 20 October 2005 - (accessed 5.08.13)

11 Directive 2005/36/EC - European Commission

(accessed 5.08.13)

12  The European Parliament legislative resolution on the Council common position for adopting a Directive, of the European Parliament and of the Council on the recognition of professional qualifications (13781/2/2004-C6-008/2005 - 2002/0061(COD) (to Pp. 16-21)

13 E.C.C.O. (2010) Competences for access to the Conservation-Restoration Profession  

14  Mounir Bouchenaky former Director General, Catherine Antomarchi and Rosalia Varoli Piazza

15  René Larsen, President and Wolfgang Baatz

16  Monica Martelli Castaldi, Michael Van Gompen and David Aguilella Cueco

17 Comité Directeur de la Culture, du Patrimoine et du Paysage / Steering Committee for Culture, Heritage and Landscape (CDCPP)

18  For a more detailed history read Martelli Castaldi and Aguilella Cueco paper in the E.C.C.O. 20th Anniversary Publication.

19  Vincent Negri, legal consultant to E.C.C.O. is currently drafting guidelines for the transposition at national level of those EU laws which influence Conservation-Restoration as part of a“Study on the impact, the inconsistencies and contradictions of national legislation for the protection of cultural property”

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Electronic reference

Monica Martelli Castaldi, David Aguilella Cueco, Jeremy Hutchings and E.C.C.O. European Confederation of Conservator-Restorer’s Organisations, “A European Recommendation for the Conservation-Restoration of cultural heritage”CeROArt [Online], 9 | 2014, Online since 20 January 2014, connection on 07 December 2023. URL:; DOI:

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About the authors

Monica Martelli Castaldi

Monica Martelli Castaldi: Educated at Istituto Centrale per il Restauro in Rome (ICR 1981). Conservator-Restorer for decorative features, architectural surfaces, paintings and sculptures, specialized in archaeological surfaces. Works, freelance, for cultural heritage preservation bodies in Italy, continuously from 1982 to present. Holds teaching positions in two Universities in Naples, and lectures in Conservation and ethics in other institutions in Europe. Participated in specialization courses at ICCROM and elsewhere. Worked at ICCROM over 10 years in the preparation of courses on mural painting Conservation and scientific principles of Conservation. Has acted as consultant and expert for several institutions and has coordinated the ICCROM-PNUD/UNESCO 1st Course on Conservation of Mural Paintings and Decorations for Latin America and the Caribbean. Since 2003 has been the principle Conservator-Restorer for the Herculaneum Conservation Project, and currently is the Expert Consultant for the study of "Integration of losses and presentation of decorative features in archaeology". Since 1988, has also been involved in the protection of cultural heritage and recognition of the profession of Conservator-Restorer in Europe, working with the Italian body ARI (Board member and President) and with E.C.C.O., as Committee member and President (2006-2013). Contact:

David Aguilella Cueco

David Aguilella Cueco: Painting and Contemporary Art Conservator-Restorer, education in Conservation-Restoration in University Paris 1 (1980-1984), master degree in C-R (2008) and in Preventive Conservation (2004). Free-lance work for French Museum and Historical Monument since 1985. Among others works on private collections, contributed to various important Conservation projects such as for E. Delacroix « Liberté guidant le peuple», « Bleriot Airplane which Crossed the channel in 1909 », and in a joint team with Fr Joseph, removal of Asbestos on R. Dufy « la Fée électricté» (Paris), and recently in “Mes Aynak” transfer of murals on raw clay, Afghanistan (2009 until present). Involved in different committees such as ARAAFU (since 1982), FFCR (since 1992), and E.C.CO (Since 2006), for public recognition and legal consideration of Profession of Conservator-Restorer, as a responsible profession and of General interest. Contact:

Jeremy Hutchings

Jeremy Hutchings (Dr): Associate Professor for Objects Conservation, University of Oslo, Norway. He has taught both remedial and preventive Conservation at BA and MA level for over 10 years. Educated in Archaeological Conservation at Durham University, Architectural Conservation at Bristol University and PhD at University College London. Has been chair of the UKIC metal section, PACR accredited (2000-2010), served as the Norwegian representative of ENCoRE (2001-2010), a member of E.C.C.O. central committee from 2007 to present and is the current chair of NKF-N. Throughout the 20 years working as a practicing Conservator he carried out remedial Conservation on a wide range of materials, from aircraft to archaeology, managed a number departments and been responsible for reforming the education programme in Oslo in line with the Bologna Declaration. His current research interests include: sustainability within the cultural heritage sector, the application of systems, the museum environment, electrochemistry in Conservation and legal issues for the Conservators. Contact:

E.C.C.O. European Confederation of Conservator-Restorer’s Organisations

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