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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 do please volunteer. There is often funding to help attend overseas working group meetings, when these resume. BSI provides training to explain the process and on how to take part, if required. In the first instance contact

It is intended that Icon will establish a Focus Group early in 2021, to explore the effectiveness of the standards.  If you would like to contribute please contact Isobel Griffin at 

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. Please note the codes are only valid for digital copies of the standards, not for the hard copies.

BS EN 15757:2010 

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

BS EN 15759-1:2011 

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

BS EN 15898:2011 

Main general terms and definitions. (25% Discount for Icon Members*)

Please note that a revised version of this standard is due to be published shortly

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. (25% Discount for Icon Members*)

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 15999-1:2014 

Guidelines for design of showcases for exhibition and preservation of objects. General requirements. (25% Discount for Icon Members*)

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 16648:2015 

Transport methods.

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 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. (25% Discount for Icon Members*)

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.

PD 5454:2012​ 

Guide for the storage and exhibition of archival materials.

PAS 198:2012​ 

Specification for managing environmental conditions for cultural collections.

BS 7913:2013 

Guide to the conservation of historic buildings.

BS EN 16682:2017

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

BS EN 16873:2016

Conservation of cultural heritage. Guidelines for the management of waterlogged wood on archaeological terrestrial sites. (25% Discount for Icon Members*)

PD CEN/TS 16163:2014

Guidelines and procedures for choosing appropriate lighting for indoor exhibitions. (25% Discount for Icon Members*)

BS EN 16883:2017 

Guidelines for improving the energy performance of historic buildings.

BS EN 16853:2017

Conservation process. Decision making, planning and implementation. (25% Discount for Icon Members*)

BS EN 16893:2018

Specifications for location, construction and modification of buildings or rooms intended for the storage or use of heritage collections.  (10% Discount for Icon Members*)


*Download your discount code here (members only).

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


Image: Bianca Harvey