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The Barcelona Charter



The VENICE CHARTER was created in 1964 as a statement of principles for the conservation and restoration of monuments and sites. It opens with the preamble:

"Imbued with a message from the past, the historic monuments of generations of people remain to the present day as living witnesses of their age-old traditions. People are becoming more and more conscious of the unity of human values and regard ancient monuments as a common heritage. The common responsibility to safeguard them for future generations is recognized. It is our duty to hand them on in the full richness of their authenticity.

It is essential that the principles guiding the preservation and restoration of ancient buildings should be agreed and be laid down on an international basis, with each country being responsible for applying the plan within the framework of its own culture and traditions.

By defining these basic principles for the first time, the ATHENS CHARTER of 1931 contributed towards the development of an extensive international movement which has assumed concrete form in national documents, in the work of ICOM and UNESCO and in the establishment by the latter of the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and the Restoration of Cultural Property"

Both Charters focus on monuments and sites ashore. Maritime heritage is not covered despite ist close affinity. Therefore the 4th EMH Congress, meeting in Barcelona in 2001, resolved to adapt the VENICE CHARTER for maritime heritage in Europe, to be known as the "BARCELONA CHARTER".


ARTICLE 1. The concept of maritime heritage afloat embraces the single traditional ship in which is found the evidence of a particular civilisation or significant development as well as traditional sailing, seamanship and maritime workmanship. This applies both to larger ships and to more modest craft of the past, which have acquired cultural significance with the passing of time.

ARTICLE 2. The preservation, restoration and operation of traditional ships must have recourse to all the sciences, techniques and facilities, that can contribute to the study and safeguarding of the maritime heritage afloat.


ARTICLE 3. The intention in preserving and restoring traditional ships in operation is to safeguard them whether as works of art, as historical evidence or for perpetuating traditional skills.


ARTICLE 4. It is essential for the continued survival of traditional ships in operation that they be maintained on a permanent basis.

ARTICLE 5. Making use of traditional ships for some socially useful purpose always facilitates their preservation. Such use is therefore desirable but it must not significantly change the exterior layout of the ship. Modifications demanded by a change of function should be kept within these limits.

ARTICLE 6. A traditional ship is inseparable from the history to which it bears witness and from the waters it sailed. Therefore its homeport and area of operation ideally should be in the regions of its former usage.


ARTICLE 7. The process of restoration is a highly specialised operation. Its aim is to preserve and reveal the aesthetic, functional, and historic value of traditional ships and is based on respect for original material and authentic documents. The restoration in any case must be preceded and accompanied by a historical study of the ship.

ARTICLE 8. The restoration of traditional ships will best be accomplished by means of traditional materials and techniques. Where traditional materials or techniques prove inadequate, the consolidation of traditional ships in operation can be achieved by the use of modern materials for conservation, the efficacy of which has been shown by scientific data and proved by experience.

ARTICLE 9. The restoration of a traditional ship does not require that the ship shall be restored to the original building year. Some ships have a great historical value in a later period of their former time of working. Restoration to any period should be executed only after thorough consideration of the quality of the historical and technical documentation available for the chosen period.

ARTICLE 10. Obligatory navigation- and safety equipment must integrate harmoniously with the whole, but at the same time must be distinguishable from the original so that restoration does not falsify the artistic or historic evidence.

ARTICLE 11. Additions cannot be allowed except in so far as they do not detract from the interesting parts of the ship, its traditional setting and the balance of its composition.

ARTICLE 12. In all works of restoration there should always be precise documentation in the form of analytical and critical reports, illustrated with drawings and/or photographs and other appropriate media. Every stage of the work of dismantling, treatment, reassembly and addition of new parts, as well as technical and structural features identified during the course of the work, should be included.

The BARCELONA CHARTER as adopted by the EMH Working Group

28th of September 2002 in Enkhuizen.

Arne Gotved                     Anders Berg

(Chairman EMH Cultural Council) (President EMH)

Signed March 30th 2003

on board Fregatten Jylland, Ebeltoft DK

The Charter of Barcelona



It is a matter of fact that the majority of historic buildings, ships and other items, which have survived intact, have done so largely because they have been put to good use, even in recent years and even when that use is very different from the original. The inescapable fact is that continued use ensures that these treasures receive the funding and upkeep they require and deserve.

This was recognised more than 80 years ago by architects in respect of buildings. At the same time, they realised that it was important that any new usage did not destroy the very thing its curators were trying to save, whether by misuse or modification. To this end, an international group of architects and museum technicians drew up a code of best practice and published it in 1931 as the ATHENS CHARTER. This was subsequently reviewed and improved in 1964 when it was re-issued as the VENICE CHARTER.

Both Charters provided guidelines for those in charge of historic buildings how best to ensure their preservation for the future. The adoption of these guidelines has helped them to gain public support, not only in funding but also in tax concessions and other preferential treatment. Furthermore, the Charters’ principles have influenced most of today’s European laws on the protection of monuments.


For some time, the owners of traditional vessels and historians working in the field of maritime history have sought public recognition that adherence to traditional designs and methods of operation are undertaken, not for personal convenience, but in the public interest, i.e. the preservation of our maritime heritage. Hopefully such recognition should be reflected in exemption from draconian or superfluous safety measures as well as in public grant-funding or concessions from harbour, navigation or tax authorities.

Naturally such concessions should be granted only to vessels which achieve a certain level of historical authenticity, or where authentic techniques of traditional seamanship relevant to the vessel’s history are regularly employed. The BARCELONA CHARTER provides a base-level for safeguarding quality. Consequently, if the vessel itself is treated in accordance with the principles of the Charter, and authentic seamanship procedures are employed in operating the vessel, it will attain this minimum level of authenticity which qualifies it as a traditional vessel.

The Charter will provide useful guidelines to owners of traditional vessels, even if they are not familiar with the general principles of keeping historic monuments and objects. Observance of these should ultimately enhance the authenticity and therefore the historic value of their vessels. “Restoration, maintenance, and operation according to the BARCELONA CHARTER” shall be indicative of quality.

A ship or boat which can “earn her keep” is more likely to be preserved for posterity than one subject to too many restrictions which may cause the vessel to be a drain on the owner’s resources. For this reason, a degree of flexibility has been recommended which will allow the vessel to be sailed or steamed while not destroying the intrinsic value of the artefact to be preserved.

Indeed, it is believed that the education of future generations and their interest in maritime heritage will be enhanced by, if not dependent on, the operation of traditional vessels, which, if in compliance with the terms of the Charter, will help to create a general understanding that such vessels help to fulfil the public interest in the conservation of both artefacts and skills.

European Maritime Heritage (EMH) believes that such a charter for the floating heritage was long overdue and has adapted the terms of the VENICE CHARTER as appropriate. It should be noted, however, that the terms of the BARCELONA CHARTER (so named because the concept of such a charter was first discussed and agreed at the EMH Congress held in Barcelona in 2001) have been extended to include the traditional seamen’s skills which many historians and curators consider as important as the vessels themselves.

COMMENTARIES on specific articles of the BARCELONA CHARTER

“Article 1”

“evidence of a particular civilization or significant developments as well as traditional sailing, seamanship and maritime workmanship” may include a wide variety of specific historical aspects. For example, this can include a specific technical feature (engine, propulsion, rigging etc.) as well as participation of a vessel in a certain historic event.
”Traditional sailing, seamanship and maritime workmanship” are especially linked to such activities that are no longer part of regular maritime activity and require special knowledge, which will be forgotten without the continuation of their use (firing of a coal-fired-boiler, pure astronomical navigation, sailing without an auxiliary engine, etc.).

“Article 2”

Although “preservation, restoration and operation” mainly should be a practical demonstration of historical methods, modern science, techniques and facilities are not totally excluded. The products of research that can contribute to long-term preservation should be used where they are appropriate. Nevertheless this will not justify the use of modern materials solely because their use will make maintenance easier.

“Article 3”

“works of art” refers to a wider sense of art. In particular ship design or technical equipment can be seen as a kind of art in the sense of applied art.

“Article 4”


“Article 5”

EMH believes that “using” a ship will not only help to ensure that she is safeguarded by the increase in funding which such use will generate and justify, but may also help to exhibit her to a wider audience.
“Socially useful” may include an educational element but may also include a commercial development, e.g. conversion of an industrial or freight area for passenger use.
With reference to “exterior layout”:
the prohibition placed on any change to “the exterior layout of the ship” is aimed to protect outward appearance. It is important that activities undertaken to ensure the ship’s survival do not destroy the very thing we seek to preserve. Furthermore, there is a strong argument for saying that any change to the structure of a vessel should allow the owner to revert to the original design.

“Article 6”

This is a recommendation.
In other words, it is desirable that vessels ply in home waters but not essential. After all, by their very nature, ships and boats move.

“Article 7”

The historical study of the ship is meant to provide the background for any decision that might arise during restoration or maintenance. Its purpose is to prohibit any restoration based on supposition that “this is what it should have been” or pure conjecture.

“Article 8”

The limitation to materials whose “efficacy has been shown by scientific data and proved by experience” is part of the Charter, because any other material would lead to a situation of the ship as an experimental playground.
This cannot be complying with the concept of a traditional watercraft as a singular artefact, because otherwise a failure of unproved material would result in additional restoration, resulting solely from the experiment and not from the long-time upkeep of the ship.

“Article 9”

Ships may change over the years, whether due to changes in cargo carried, method of propulsion or some other reason, even during their commercial life.
This article endorses restoration to any period of that life.

“Article 10”

The objective here is to ensure that modern equipment should not be confused with the vessel’s original or traditional equipment.

“Article 11”

It is considered that modern safety or navigation devices are necessary for the safe operation of a traditional vessel. Nevertheless the addition of such components should be done in a way that does not interact with “the interesting parts of the ship, its traditional setting and the balance of its composition”.

“Article 12”

Documentation is absolutely needed to secure the long-time quality of a vessel as a historic artefact, because otherwise it will not be possible in future times to decide which features are still original and what is material added later.

Commentary written by: Dr. Ingo Heidbrink (German Maritime Museum)

Based on material by: David Morgan

Supplementary Contributions: John Robinson

Version 3 / Sept 3rd 2003