AIC Releases Statement on the 10th Anniversary of the Adoption of the UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage

August 26, 2011

Mr. John L. Nua, III, Chairman
Advisory Council on Historic Preservation
Old Post Office Building
1100 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Suite 809
Washington, DC 20004

Dear Mr. Nau,

The UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage was adopted by the 31st general conference of UNESCO in November 2001. The Convention provides a guideline for managing activities related to underwater cultural heritage.  Included in the Convention are the Annex Rules that outline best practices for responsible underwater archaeology and provide guides for research, documentation and responsible artifact care.  The National Park Service and NOAA participated in the development of the Convention and Annex Rules.  While there was not complete agreement about the Convention, all parties agreed that the Annex Rules provide an excellent international standard for the practice of underwater archaeology and stewardship of submerges sites.

The Board of the American Institute for Conservation of Artistic and Historic Works (AIC) urges you to endorse the Annex Rules as a requirement for the practice of underwater archaeology and submerged heritage management.  Celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2011, AIC supports historic preservation and the 3500 professional conservators practicing in the US.  Preservation does not just mean saving the physical object for display in a museum but, in many cases more importantly, preservation means saving information about the object – where it came from, who owned and used it, when it was made or used, and how it came to be in an underwater site.  This information tells the story of our past; the story brings history to life for the public.  Preserving and making the stories accessible to the public provides an educational resource and heritage tourism venue.  Conservators of archaeological artifacts can preserve the individual objects but need your assistance to encourage responsible and professional excavation, documentation, research and management of underwater cultural heritage sites.  Please support and incorporate the Annex Rules, some of which are already practiced by Federal agency archaeologists, into the Council’s guidelines and strategies.

The Convention and Annex Rules are available on the UNESCO web site at  Please let me know if you would like additional information or have questions about the Annex Rules or AIC conservators.  Thank you.


Meg Loew Craft
AIC, President
Senior Objects Conservator
Walters Art Museum
600 North Charles St.
Baltimore, MD 21201
410-547-9000 x629