University of Massachusetts Amherst



Heritage Resources


About the picture

The Itsukushima Shinto Shrine on Miyajima Island, Japan, dates to the 12th century, and was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1996.


Heritage Policies

In many cases, the principles of national sovereignty legally empower each country to determine the methods and character of its treatment of tangible heritage. Yet despite the fact that national, regional, and local legislation varies greatly in various parts of the world, a certain level of international consensus has been achieved. This general consensus about heritage conservation and management is expressed in the form of international conventions, regional treaties, and the doctrinal texts of international professional groups. In addition, various comprehensive planning studies have offered valuable projections of emerging trends in heritage policy.

International Conventions

International conventions are legally recognized treaties, drafted in common, but separately ratified or accepted by each signatory state.

Convention for the Protection of the Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict (1954)

Also known as The Hague Treaty, this is the basic standard of behavior in the case of military occupation or intentional destruction of cultural heritage.

UNESCO World Heritage Convention (1972)

Also known as The Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, this is the international agreement that established the World Heritage Centre and the World Heritage List.

UNESCO Convention for Safeguarding Intangible Cultural Heritage (2003)

The first convention to emphasize the non-material elements of heritage and to underline its role in expressions of identity.

Regional Treaties

The European Convention on the Protection of Archaeological Heritage (1996)

A regional treaty mandating legal oversite of archaeological sites and landscapes.

The Council of Europe Framework Convention on the Value of Cultural Heritage and Society (2005)

An important regional convention that emphasizes the contemporary social context and legal rights and responsibilities relating to tangible and intangible heritage.

Professional Codes, Doctrines, and Best Practices

Beginning in the 1920s, with initiatives of the International Museums Office of the League of Nations, professional coalitions of conservators, architects, planners, archaeologists, historians, and preservationists have formulated a series of international standards for best practices in the heritage field.

The Athens Charter for the Restoration of Historic Monuments (1931)

The Athens Charter was adopted at the First International Congress of the Architects and Technicians of Historic Monuments.

The International Charter for the Conservation and Restoration of Monuments and Sites (1964)

Also known as The Venice Charter, it was adopted at the Second International Congress of the Architects and Technicians of Historic Monuments.

Historic Gardens (1982)

Also known as The Florence Charter, it was adopted by ICOMOS as an addendum to the Venice Charter in 1982.

Charter for the Conservation of Historic Towns and Urban Areas (1987)

Also known as The Washington Charter, it was adopted by ICOMOS to complement the Venice Charter and respond to UNESCO's 1976 "Recommendation Concerning the Safeguarding and Contemporary Role of Historic Areas."

Charter for the Protection and Management of the Archaeological Heritage (1990)

Prepared by the International Committee for the Management of Archaeological Heritage (ICAHM) and approved by the 9th General Assembly of ICOMOS in Lausanne in 1990.

The Nara Document on Authenticity (1994)

The Nara Document was drafted at the Nara Conference on Authenticity in Relation to the World Heritage Convention, held at Nara, Japan, and organized by Japan's Agency for Cultural Affairs in coorperation with UNESCO, ICOMOS, and ICCROM.

Charter for the Protection and Management of the Underwater Cultural Heritage (1996)

Ratified by the 11th ICOMOS General Assembly in Sofia, Bulgaria, October 1996.

International Charter on Cultural Tourism (1999)

Also known by the title, "Managing Tourism at Places of Heritage Significance", it was adopted by ICOMOS at the 12th General Assembly in Mexico, October 1999.

Charter on the Built Vernacular Heritage (1999)

Ratified by ICOMOS at the 12th General Assembly in Mexico, October 1999.

The Burra Charter (1999)

Adopted by Australia ICOMOS at its Annual General Meeting in November 1999. The result of a national initiative, it is one of the most visionary and far-sighted doctrinal texts, widely used internationally.

Principles for the Analysis, Conservation, and Structural Restoration of Architectural Heritage (2003)

Ratified by ICOMOS at the 14th General Assembly in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, October 2003.

ICOMOS Charter on Cultural Routes (2008)

Ratified by ICOMOS as the 16th General Assembly in Québec, Canada, October 2008.

ICOMOS Charter for the Interpretation and Presentation of Cultural Heritage Sites (2008)

Ratified by ICOMOS as the 16th General Assembly in Québec, Canada, October 2008.

Best Practices and Standards of the ICA (present)

The International Council on Archives regularly updates its best practices and standards.

Planning Studies and Policy Reports

Center for Heritage and Society, 215 Machmer Hall, University of Massachusetts Amherst, MA 01003 phone: 413.545.2221  fax: 413.545.9494