Australia ICOMOS

The Australia ICOMOS charter for the conservation of places of cultural significance (the Burra charter)


Having regard to the International Charter for the Conservation and Restoration of Monuments and Sites (Venice 1966), and the Resolutions of the 5th General Assembly of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) (Moscow 1978), the following Charter was adopted by Australia ICOMOS on 19th August 1979 at Burra Burra. Revisions were adopted on 23rd February 1981 and on 23 April 1988.

Explanatory notes
These notes do not form part of the Charter and may be added to by Australia ICOMOS.


Article 1

For the purpose of this Charter:


Place means site, areas, building or other work, group of buildings or other works together with associated contents and surrounds.

Place includes structures, ruins, archaeological sites and landscapes modified by human activity.


Cultural significance means aesthetic, historic, scientific or social value for past, present or future generations.


Fabric means all the physical material of the place.


Conservation means all the processes of looking after a place so as to retain its cultural significance. It includes maintenance and may according to circumstance include preservation, restoration, reconstruction and adaptation and will be commonly a combination of more than one of these.


Maintenance means the continuous protective care of the fabric, contents and setting of a place, and is to be distinguished from repair. Repair involves restoration or reconstruction and it should be treated accordingly.

The distinctions referred to in Article 1.5, for example in relation to roof gutters, are:

maintenance regular inspection and cleaning of gutters

repair involving restoration returning of dislodged gutters to their place

repair involving reconstruction replacing decayed gutters


Preservation means maintaining the fabric of a place in its existing state and retarding deterioration.


Restoration means returning the EXISTING fabric of a place to a known earlier state by removing accretions or by reassembling existing components without the introduction of new material.


Reconstruction means returning a place as nearly as possible to a known earlier state and is distinguished by the introduction of materials (new or old) into the fabric. This is not to be confused with either recreation or conjectural reconstruction which are outside the scope of this Charter.


Adaptation means modifying a place to suit proposed compatible use.


Compatible use means a use which involves no change to the culturally significant fabric, changes which are substantially reversible, or changes which require a minimal impact.


Conservation Principles

Article 2

The aim of conservation is to retain the cultural significance of a place and must include provision for its security, its maintenance and its future.

Conservation should not be undertaken unless adequate resources are available to ensure that the fabric is not left in a vulnerable state and that the cultural significance of the place is not impaired. However, it must be emphasised that the best conservation often involves the least work and can be inexpensive.

Article 3

Conservation is based on a respect for the existing fabric and should involve the least possible physical intervention. It should not distort the evidence provided by the fabric.

The traces of additions, alterations and earlier treatments on the fabric of a place are evidence of its history and uses.

Conservation action should tend to assist rather than to impede their interpretation.

Article 4

Conservation should make use of all the disciplines which can contribute to the study and safeguarding of a place. Techniques employed should be traditional but in some circumstances they may be modern ones for which a firm scientific basis exists and which have been supported by a body of experience.

Article 5

Conservation of a place should take into consideration all aspects of its cultural significance without unwarranted emphasis on any one aspect at the expense of others.

Article 6

The conservation policy appropriate to a place must first be determined by an understanding of its cultural significance.

An understanding of the cultural significance of a place is essential to its proper conservation. This should be achieved by means of a thorough investigation resulting in a report embodying a statement of cultural significance. The formal adoption of a statement of cultural significance is an essential prerequisite to the preparation of a conservation policy.

Article 7

The conservation policy will determine which uses are compatible.

Continuity of the use of a place in a particular way may be significant and therefore desirable.

Article 8

Conservation requires the maintenance of an appropriate visual setting: e.g., form, scale, colour, texture and materials. No new construction, demolition or modification which would adversely affect the setting should be allowed. Environmental intrusions which adversely affect appreciation or enjoyment of the place should be excluded.

New construction work, including infill and additions, may be acceptable, provided:

it does not reduce or obscure the cultural significance of the place

it is in keeping with Article 8.

Article 9

A building or work should remain in its historical location. The moving of all or part of a building or work is unacceptable unless this is the sole means of ensuring its survival.

Some structures were designed to be readily removable or already have a history of previous moves, e.g. prefabricated dwellings and poppet-heads. Provided such a structure does not have a strong association with its present site, its removal may be considered.

If any structure is moved, it should be moved to an appropriate setting and given an appropriate use. Such action should not be to the detriment of any place of cultural significance.

Article 10

The removal of contents which form part of the cultural significance of the place is unacceptable unless it is the sole means of ensuring their security and preservation. Such contents must be returned should changed circumstances make this practicable.

Conservation Processes


Article 11

Preservation is appropriate where the existing state of the fabric itself constitutes evidence of specific cultural significance, or where insufficient evidence is available to allow other conservation processes to be carried out.

Preservation protects fabric without obscuring the evidence of its construction and use.

The process should always be applied:

where the evidence of the fabric is of such significance that it must not be altered. This is an unusual case and likely to be appropriate for archaeological remains of national importance;

where insufficient investigation has been carried out to permit conservation policy decisions to be taken in accord with Articles 23 to 25.

New construction may be carried out in association with preservation when its purpose is the physical protection of the fabric and when it is consistent with Article 8.

Article 12

Preservation is limited to the protection, maintenance and, where necessary, the stabilisation of the existing fabric but without the distortion of its cultural significance.

Stabilisation is a process which helps keep fabric intact and in a fixed position. When carried out as part of preservation work it does not introduce new materials into the fabric. However, when necessary for the survival of the fabric, stabilisation may be effected as part of a reconstruction process and new materials introduced. For example, grouting or the insertion of a reinforcing rod in a masonry wall.


Article 13

Restoration is appropriate only if there is sufficient evidence of an earlier state of the fabric and only if returning the fabric to that state reveals the cultural significance of the place.

See explanatory note for Article 2.

Article 14

Restoration should reveal anew culturally significant aspects of the place. It is based on respect for all the physical, documentary and other evidence and stops at the point where conjecture begins.

Article 15

Restoration is limited to the reassembling of displaced components or removal of accretions in accordance with Article 16.

Article 16

The contributions of all periods to the place must be respected. If a place includes the fabric of different periods, revealing the fabric of one period at the expense of another can only be justified when what is removed is of slight cultural significance and the fabric which is to be revealed is of much greater cultural significance.


Article 17

Reconstruction is appropriate only where a place is incomplete through damage or alteration and where it is necessary for its survival, or where it reveals the cultural significance of the place as a whole.

Article 18

Reconstruction is limited to the completion of a depleted entity and should not constitute the majority of the fabric of the place.

Article 19

Reconstruction is limited to the reproduction of fabric, the form of which is known from physical and/or documentary evidence. It should be identifiable on close inspection as being new work.


Article 20

Adaptation is acceptable where the conservation of the place cannot otherwise be achieved, and where the adaptation does not substantially detract from its cultural significance.

Article 21

Adaptation must be limited to that which is essential to a use for the place determined in accordance with Articles 6 and 7.

Article 22

Fabric of cultural significance unavoidably removed in the process of adaptation must be kept safely to enable its future reinstatement.

Conservation Practice

Article 23

Work on a place must be preceded by professionally prepared studies of the physical, documentary and other evidence, and the existing  recorded before any intervention in the place.

Article 24

Study of a place by any disturbance of the fabric or by archaeological excavation should be undertaken where necessary to provide data essential for decisions on the conservation of the place and/or to secure evidence about to be lost or made inaccessible through necessary conservation or other unavoidable action. Investigation of a place for any other reason which requires physical disturbance and which adds substantially to a scientific body of knowledge may be permitted, provided that it is consistent with the conservation policy for the place.

Article 25

A written statement of conservation policy must be professionally prepared setting out the cultural significance and proposed conservation procedure together with justification and supporting evidence, including photographs, drawings and all appropriate samples.

The procedure will include the conservation processes referred to in Article 1.4 and other matters described in Guidelines to the Burra charter: conservation policy.

Article 26

The organisation and individuals responsible for policy decisions must be named and specific responsibility taken for each such decision.

Article 27

Appropriate professional direction and supervision must be maintained at all stages of the work and a log kept of new evidence and additional decisions recorded as in Article 25 above.

Article 28

The records required by Articles 23, 25, 26 and 27 should be placed in a permanent archive and made publicly available.

Article 29

The items referred to in Articles 10 and 22 should be professionally catalogued and protected.