Conservation standards

A resource for standards in conservation

Standards are everywhere, from domestic equipment like hairdryers and light bulbs to professional items such as humidifiers or cameras. Standards have been in use in heritage conservation for many years and are still evolving today. A standard offers guidance to good practice - an agreed way of doing something - and combines the distilled wisdom of people with expertise in their subject matter.

Icon’s own professional standards require members to “be conversant with national and international principles, philosophies and guidelines relevant to your practice.”  So awareness of the full range of published conservation standards is essential.


What is a standard?

A Standard is a guide to best practice. Standards are designed for voluntary use – no-one is forced to follow a set of rules that makes life harder - they offer ways to do things better. They are not legally binding but they can be used to underpin contractual arrangements. Standards keep on evolving as new solutions develop and demonstrate to clients, colleagues and stakeholders that you are up to date with your area of the profession . 

The conservation standards listed below set down best practice in a concise way, summarising current approaches to the conservation of cultural heritage collections and buildings, for the benefit both of professional conservators and of those employing, commissioning or working alongside them. They have proved really useful for informing colleagues and clients about their work. The standards do not specify how conservation is to be carried out; this is down to the conservator’s professional judgment. Some of them do however describe tests or investigations, for instance for the effectiveness of materials and processes, or a measure of the outcomes of interventions; while others suggest best practice for environmental conditions.


Who writes the standards?

Conservators, conservation managers, scientists and architects from the UK, alongside those from many other European countries, have been compiling the suite of BS EN Conservation standards listed below. They contribute to the working groups (one working group for each proposed standard) and report to Committee  B/560 of the British Standards Institution Conservation of tangible cultural heritage on which Icon and about ten other UK heritage conservation bodies are represented. 

The published documents have been agreed after a rigorous drafting process and voting system. Although developed collaboratively across Europe, under the auspices of CEN – the European standards organisation, each standards body (e.g. BSI) publishes each standard nationally. They are revised every five years, in the light of their proven usefulness and changing practice. Because of varying practice across different parts of Europe, the standards sometimes offer a compromise, and when this happens there is generally a note drawing attention to this.  Despite Brexit, the UK is expected to stay within the CEN framework at least to the end of 2023.

There are other conservation standards particular to the UK, i.e. not under the auspices of CEN and so without EN in their title. They have been compiled solely by conservation and other relevant professionals within the UK. These are listed separately below.


How to get involved

There is a continuing need for UK conservators to take part in the compilation of new standards and the revision of existing ones. If you would like to be involved, please consider volunteering.

It may be possible for you to join B/560, which is the committee within the British Standards Institute (BSI) with responsibility for the Conservation of Cultural Heritage standards. If you are interested in this, contact the committee directly as described in the Guidance document below. 

However, you don’t have to be a member of B/560 to contribute. There are several stages in the development or review of a standard where the wider UK conservation community can get involved. Contributions need to be channelled through B/560, and in turn B/560 feeds into the relevant European standards committee, CEN/TC 346.


Please refer to Guidance on contributing to standards development below:

Guidance on contributing to standards development.docx


Examples of recent, current and forthcoming work 

  • BS EN XXX Conservation of cultural heritage - Desalination of porous inorganic materials by poultices – the proposal stage is complete and the drafting stage will begin on 22/7/2022. 

For a comprehensive list of all work in progress, check the B/560 page on the BSI website


How to get hold of the standards

University libraries and other institutional libraries have online access to the standards, both the European-based ones ( BS EN…)  and the UK ones (BS…), where they can be read online and often printed out without charge. In institutions that belong to the National Conservation Service access is free for eleven of the standards.  organisations which subscribe to BSI can obtain them all at half-price.

The standards can all be bought from the BSI Shop, where many of the most relevant BS EN standards are offered at a special discounted rate to members of Icon.

To order one of the discounted standards, find the relevant code here (members only), search by BS EN number in the BSI Shop and apply the code during checkout. The codes are valid for both online and hard copy versions of the standards. Please note the discounts will go live from February 1st 2021.

Fourteen of some of the more recent BS EN standards have been published together as a single book at an affordable price. The German publisher Beuth, has put out in English DIN Handbook 410: Conservation of Cultural Heritage 2. Priced at only 128 Euros for an online version or hard copy: 14 standards on nearly 400 pages. Those 14 standards are indicated below thus **

There are several other sources offering the same European [EN] standards in English. One is the Polish national standards body (PKN) (use Google Translate). Possibly the best value is provided by the Estonian national standards body.

Conservation standards offered at 40% discount to members of Icon

To take advantage of the discount when ordering, note the code for the relevant standard number from the accompanying table here (members only) and enter that code during checkout at the BSI Shop.

Please note that the complete titles all start with either “Conservation of cultural heritage…” or “Conservation of cultural property…”  These prefixes are not repeated in the lists below

British Standards

BS EN 15757:2010 

Specifications for temperature and relative humidity to limit climate-induced mechanical damage in organic hygroscopic materials.



BS EN 15898:2019 

  Main general terms and definitions. 


BS EN 15946:2011

  Packing principles for transport.


BS EN 16085:2012  

  Methodology for sampling from materials of cultural property. General rules.


BS EN 16095:2012 

  Condition recording for movable cultural heritage. 


BS EN 15999-1:2014   

   Guidelines for design of showcases for exhibition and preservation of objects. General requirements.


BS EN 16648:2015**

  Transport methods.


BS EN 16782:2016**

  Cleaning of porous inorganic materials. Laser cleaning techniques for cultural heritage.


BS EN 16790:2016**

  Integrated pest management (IPM) for protection of cultural heritage.


BS EN 16873:2016**

  Guidelines for the management of waterlogged wood on archaeological terrestrial sites.


PD CEN/TS 16163:2014

  Guidelines and procedures for choosing appropriate lighting for indoor exhibitions.​


BS EN 16883:2017

  Guidelines for improving the energy performance of historic buildings.


BS EN 16853:2017**

  Conservation process. Decision making, planning and implementation.


BS EN 16893:2018**

  Specifications for location, construction and modification of buildings or rooms intended for the storage or use of heritage collections. 


BS EN 17121:2019

  Historic timber structures. Guidelines for the on-site assessment of load-bearing timber structures.


BS EN 17429:2020

  Procurement of conservation services and works 


PD CEN/TS 17135:2020

  General terms for describing the alterations of objects.


Download your discount code here (members only).


Other BS EN Standards, to which the Icon members’ discount does not apply.

BS EN 15759-1:2011 **

  Indoor climate. Guidelines for heating churches, chapels and other places of worship.


BS EN 16242:2012

  Procedures and instruments for measuring humidity in the air and moisture exchanges between air and cultural property. 


BS EN 16141:2012

  Guidelines for management of environmental conditions. Open storage facilities: definitions and characteristics of collection centres dedicated to the preservation and management of cultural heritage.


BS EN 16096:2012 

  Condition survey and report of built cultural heritage.


BS EN 16322:2013

  Test methods. Determination of drying properties. 


BS EN 16302:2013

  Test methods. Measurement of water absorption by pipe method.


BS EN 16581:2014 ** 

  Surface protection for porous inorganic materials. Laboratory test methods for the evaluation of the performance of water repellent products


BS EN 16455:2014 **

  Extraction and determination of soluble salts in natural stone and related materials used in and from cultural heritage


BS EN 16572:2015 **

  Glossary of technical terms concerning mortars for masonry, renders and plasters used in cultural heritage.


BS EN 16515:2015 **

  Guidelines to characterise natural stone used in cultural heritage.


BS EN 15886:2010

  Test methods. Colour measurement of surfaces.


BS EN 15758:2010

  Procedures and instruments for measuring temperatures of the air and the surfaces of objects


BS EN 15803:2009

  Test methods. Determination of water vapour permeability.


BS EN 15802:2009

  Test methods. Determination of static contact angle.


BS EN 15801:2009

  Test methods. Determination of water absorption by capillarity.


BS EN 16682:2017**

  Methods of measurement of moisture content, or water content, in materials constituting immovable cultural heritage.


BS EN 17036:2018**

  Artificial ageing by simulated solar radiation of the surface of untreated or treated porous inorganic materials.


PD CEN/TS 17135:2020

  General terms for describing the alterations of objects



Other BSI conservation standards

BS 7913:2013   

  Guide to the conservation of historic buildings


BS 4971:2017 

  Conservation and care of archive and library collections


PAS 197:2009 

  Code of practice for cultural collections management 


BS 8221-1:2012

  2012 Codes of practice for cleaning and surface repair of buildings. Cleaning of natural stone, brick, terracotta and concrete.


BS 6270-3:1991

  Code of practice for cleaning and surface repair of buildings. Metals (cleaning only)

UK conservators are invited to collaborate in the preparation of new standards and the revision of existing standards. Please email [email protected]