For each commission from both public and private clients, IPARC abides by the code of ethics of the Beroepsvereniging voor Conservators and Restaurateurs van Kunstvoorwerpen/Association Professionelle de Conservateurs d’Oeuvres d’Art (BRK-APROA vzw/asbl), which has signed up to the code of ethics of ECCO (European Confederation of Conservator-Conservators’ Organisations). The most essential principles can be summarized as follows: reversibility, minimal impact and recognizability.
The principle of reversibility: a conservation-restoration treatment must, in principle, be reversible. The conservator should only use products, materials and techniques that do not damage the cultural heritage and that are made specifically for this purpose. His or her intervention must in no way impede or hinder future treatment or investigation.
Taking as one’s starting point respect for the uniqueness and authenticity of the work, every restorative intervention must be reversible. That means that, in principle, it should always be possible to undo it. It must be possible to remove the products used without difficulty. It must be possible to remove retouches unobtrusively and easily.
Although the conservator will always try to conserve using the best available techniques, it is possible that after some time – or even in the foreseeable future – better techniques will be developed and will become available. When that happens it must be theoretically possible to remove the conserving treatment currently applied without damage, so that the improved conservation techniques can be applied.
In line with the principles of conservation in the strict sense, an effort is made to preserve the authentic work of art to the greatest extent possible, even if that means that a number of imperfections remain visible.
The principle of minimal intervention: the conservator respects the unique character of every work of art, the original materials and their natural ageing. He or she therefore limits interventions to the strict minimum. Conservation-restoration must never be confused with renovation or reconstruction.
In the past, too many works were tackled too vigorously in that way, with excessive cleaning, for example, the stripping of sculptures and furniture or an amateurish approach to historical interiors.
The principle of perceptibility: on the basis of the same respect for the integrity of the work of art, every intervention or addition must be perceptible and distinguishable with the naked eye or with the aid of methods of investigation.
Those working to maintain the heritage make the point that the primary importance of the heritage is that it is a bearer of information, a messenger. The mission, accordingly, is to keep it as readable as possible and to keep that message as intact as possible, for the benefit of the present generation and of those that will come after it.
Conservation and restoration have the goal of maintaining the historical message by ensuring, to the greatest extent possible, the survival of its material bearer. Which is why the emphasis is on conservation and steps to make it readable once more are kept to a minimum: our own interventions must remain subordinate to the preservation of the historical material.