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Conservation standards

A resource for standards in conservation

Although we are rarely aware of them, formal standards are everywhere in our lives, from electrical plugs to advertising.  They have been in use in the field of heritage for many years and are still evolving today.

For the last 11 years, under the auspices of the European Committee for Normalisation (CEN), conservators from many European countries, including the UK, have been compiling standards for the conservation of both moveable and immovable cultural heritage. Some of them concern the care, transport and exhibition of collections.

There are now around 25 such standards published by the British Standards Institution (BSI) with others in development including standards on the process of conservation (decision making, planning and implementation) and on commissioning conservation.

A number of CEN and other British standards along with related documents is listed in the table below. 

Icon Professional Standards

The professional standards of the Institute of Conservation (Icon).

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.

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 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.

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.

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. 

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.

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

Image: Bianca Harvey