Icon launches updated Professional Standards and Ethical Guidance

Icon’s Professional Standards outline the high standards of professional practice to which all Icon members are obliged to abide as a condition of membership

10 Jul 2020

Icon’s Professional Standards set the tone for the sector, outlining high standards of professional practice to which all Icon members are obliged to abide as a condition of membership. Similarly Icon's Ethical Guidance supports professionals in making the best decisions for objects and collections in their care. In this way, those commissioning conservation services from Icon members can rest assured their conservator will be working to the exacting standards demanded of Icon members - giving real peace of mind.

The conservation sector is constantly evolving as techniques and practice change over time. Given this, it is vital that codes of practice and guidance which define professional practice and guide and support professional conservators in their decision making are also updated and adapted to reflect this dynamism. 

Over the last two years, nearly 300 Icon members have taken part in a collaborative process to revise the Icon Professional Standards and Judgement and Ethics. This important document been reviewed and updated to reflect the times, and to ensure that it is compatible with the development of the new Icon Ethical Guidance. Both documents were formally adopted by the Icon Board of Trustees at their meeting on 24th June 2020. 

Icon Professional Standards and Judgement & Ethics

The ‘Icon Professional Standards and Judgement & Ethics’ defines what constitutes professional practice for professional conservators. They are the foundation of Icon Accreditation, currently celebrating its 20th Anniversary, as well as the basis of the Icon Code of Conduct.  

Since their introduction in 1999, the Professional Standards have been reviewed several times to ensure they remain fit for purpose.  In accordance with the Icon Accreditation Development Plan for 2019-2024, Dr Stan Lester was commissioned to lead the latest review. Icon members were invited to contribute through a survey of the membership and a ‘Delphi group’ was formed representing the full cross section of Icon members. The group reviewed comments and worked together to agree the changes to the Professional Standards.   

Key changes have sought to ensure that the standards more clearly reflect the importance of environmental sustainability in conservation practice, while more clearly articulating the purpose of the individual criteria .  

All Icon members are obliged to abide by the Code of Conduct and Professional Standards as a condition of membership.

The revised Standards can be accessed here >>

Icon Ethical Guidance

In 2017 the Icon Board of Trustees approved the setup of a Task and Finish Group to investigate the development of Icon Ethical Guidance for Icon members. This was led by Icon Trustee, Lorraine Finch ACR, with a group of 11 members and supported by Icon’s Professional Development Team. After an initial phase where they explored the need for Icon to create ethical principles, the group spent two years of developing the documents. 

The development of the Icon Code of Ethics is an incredibly important milestone for the profession, having been missing from Icon’s guidance and codes of practice since Icon’s Code of Conduct superseded E.C.C.O.’s Professional Guidelines in 2014. 

The newly adopted Icon Ethical Guidance is divided into three distinct areas: 

  1. Principles of Conservation: thirteen broad statements defining the conservation approach to objects of cultural heritage.
  2. Commentary on the Principles of Conservation: short analysis of the fundamental ideas expressed by each Principle, and how to apply them to your practice.
  3. Glossary of terms.

The Icon Ethical Guidance is intended to be a useful tool to help guide and support ethical decision making within the sector.

You can view Icon Ethical Guidance by clicking here >>


Reflecting on this, James Grierson, Chair of Icon’s Board of Trustees said:

These guides are a reflection of the vital role that Icon plays as a leading champion of cultural heritage and reflect the commitment of the conservation profession to high standards of professionalism and ethical practice.  Conservation typically reflects a collaboration between the conservator, the client or employer and, in many cases, a wider professional team.  Icon’s Code of Conduct, Professional Standards and Ethical Guidance provide effective underpinning for the sort of productive collaboration that complex conservation demands.

Icon staff and trustees wish to thank the Icon members who played a role in the working groups and  gave their time and energy to review and develop both of these documents. We also acknowledge the valuable input from  the hundreds of members who commented on drafts and shared their views to ensure that both the Professional Standards and Ethical Guidance truly reflect contemporary conservation practice. 


2020 marks the 20th Anniversary of Icon Accreditation. Throughout 2020 we will be celebrating the successes of professional conservators and highlighting the impact that Icon Accreditation has had on the conservation profession and for the care of our cultural heritage.

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