Selected Further Guidance About the Reconstruction of Heritage Assets

A reading list of relevant and related guidance from the international bodies regulating world heritage:

  • The ICOMOS International Charter for the Conservation and Restoration of Monuments and Sites (Venice Charter 1964) 
    A foundation document, still widely used. Adopts a firm line that there should be no conjecture in restoration. Subsequent international documents and charters also deal with the issues around reconstruction and restoration including the Burra Charter below.
  • The Australia ICOMOS Charter for Places of Cultural Significance (The Burra Charter 1979, 2013 Revision) 
    As with the Venice Charter the Burra Charter takes a conservative approach to reconstruction and restoration, stating that this should only be undertaken in cases where there is sufficient evidence 'of an earlier state of fabric'.
    However, it also suggests that there are instances where '… reconstruction may also be appropriate as part of a use or practice that retains the cultural significance of the place.' Reconstruction should be made identifiable.
  • ICOMOS Lausanne Charter (1990) 
    Guidance specific to archaeological remains. The final paragraph of Article 7 says: 'reconstructions serve two important functions: experimental research and interpretation. They should, however, be carried out with great caution, so as to avoid disturbing any surviving archaeological evidence, and they should take account of evidence from all sources in order to achieve authenticity. Where possible and appropriate, reconstructions should not be built immediately on the archaeological remains, and should be identifiable as such.'
  • The Nara Document on Authenticity (1994) 
    This document is of particular relevance to decisions about reconstruction, as it highlights that the cultural values of all parties should be taken into account, particularly where intangible as well as tangible values are of relevance. In this way, it supports some decisions to reconstruct.
    The Nara Document also makes it clear that there should be respect for diverse cultural and heritage values and there should be 'conscious efforts to avoid imposing mechanistic formulae or standardized procedures in attempting to define or determine authenticity of particular monuments and sites.'
    See also the 2014 edition Nara + 20
  • The Riga Charter (2000)  
    This charter goes into more detail about the principles of reconstruction, in line with the Nara Document. The Riga Charter remains conservative in its approach and makes it clear that while replication 'is in general a misrepresentation of the evidence of the past … in exceptional circumstances, reconstruction of cultural heritage, lost through disaster, whether of natural or human origin, may be acceptable …'
  • Council of Europe Faro Declaration (2005) 
    This declaration recognises that although the Nara Document has helpful policies, the range of different communities that can be involved in decisions on reconstruction and the diversity of their views can make it difficult to achieve consensual decisions on reconstruction. It acknowledges that there can often be a range of different approaches within an individual community. There are also wider communities of interest that may not be local to the heritage in question but which have a legitimate interest in it. The Faro Declaration adopts a broad definition of a heritage community, which 'consists of people who value specific aspects of cultural heritage which they wish, within the framework of public action, to sustain and transmit to future generations'.
  • UNESCO Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention (2019 edition) 
    The Guidelines take the same firm line on reconstruction as the Riga Charter, and paragraph 86 states that reconstruction is, in relation to authenticity, 'justifiable only in exceptional circumstances. Reconstruction is acceptable only on the basis of complete and detailed documentation and to no extent on conjecture'. The UK government ratified the World Heritage Convention in 1984.
  • ICOMOS Guidance on Post Trauma Recovery and Reconstruction for World Heritage Cultural Properties (2017) 
    This interim guidance on post trauma recovery and reconstruction is focussed on cultural heritage concerns and specifically on World Heritage and represents an interim statement produced in response to the extent and scale of harm caused by both natural processes and human action. It suggests a process that can be followed relating to recovery and reconstruction.
  • ICOMOS Global Case Study Project on Reconstruction: Matrix for the Compilation of Case Studies, April 2018
    In support of the ICOMOS Post Trauma Recovery and Reconstruction Guidance referred to above, this document sets out a helpful template for a process that can be followed by those undertaking reconstruction projects. ICOMOS recommend that case studies should follow this process to assist in gathering consistent evidence and data.
  • Warsaw Recommendation on Recovery and Reconstruction of Cultural Heritage (2018) 
    The Recommendation sets out a series of principles to underpin reconstruction projects which were developed during a delegate conference in Warsaw in 2017. Drawing inspiration from being held in Warsaw, itself the subject of a remarkable programme of post-Second World War reconstruction the recommendation amongst other measures recommends the application of the Historic Urban Landscape and integrated management approaches to achieve a holistic approach to reconstruction as part of post disaster recovery.
  • Conservation Principles, Policies and Guidance for the Sustainable Management of the Historic Environment, 2008 
    Currently under review, these Conservation Principles set out a philosophical basis (values led) for and practical approaches to the management of the Historic Environment of England, including a section on reconstruction. Historic England applies these principles to its own work.
  • Links to selected international treaties and obligations
    Historic England's web page explaining international law and practice on heritage.