4.2.2 Heritage issues and policies
The key law that regulates this sphere is the Law on Preservation and Utilisation of Immovable Monuments of History and Culture and of the Historic Environment (1999), which defines historical and cultural monuments and the responsibilities of state governing and local self-governing authorities in the field of monument protection, usage and so on.
From 2002-2007, the government has approved the state lists of historical and cultural monuments in 10 Marzes of Armenia and in Yerevan city, where 24 152 monuments are included, as well as the list of "immovable monuments that are state property and are not subject to amortisation", which includes 18 935 monuments.
The monuments registered on the territory of the Republic are grouped in approximately 4 500 territorial protection units; 700 of them are historic, ancient and medieval capitals of Armenia, strongholds and habitations, while another 1 200 are monastic complexes, churches and temples. There are hundreds of tomb fields, historical cemeteries, secular buildings, memorials and monuments registered also.
The cooperation between the Ministry of Culture and the EU in the heritage field continues. Since 1998, the Haghpat and Sanahin monastic complexes, Geghard monastery and the Valley of River Azat, Echmiadzin Cathedral and the archaeological place of Zvartnots have been included in "World Heritage List" of UNESCO.
Since 2004, the state has been allocating funding for the protection of historical monuments. However, the heritage works, particularly the excavation-designing-protection stages, still need to be regulated.
Following the independence of the Republic of Armenia, the communist ideology museums, devoted to party figures, were closed. In 1997, about 18 museums in the state system were passed to regional jurisdictions, while preserving the state property right for the collections. Currently, there are 22 museums under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Culture of RA.
As a result of decentralisation policy, financing of museums within the regional and community jurisdictions was reduced. The museums of distant, bordering, high mountainous communities are in need of methodical and professional information and consultations.
In 2004-2006, new permanent exhibitions were organised in 11 museums, exhibiting more than 4 000 museum items that were not displayed previously. More frequently organised exhibitions and diverse undertakings have increased interest in museums among Armenian and foreign visitors. In 2005, the number of visitors was 275 031, which exceeded the 2004 figure by 35.5%. In 2010, the number of visitors was 1 644 936 and it constantly grows.
Since 2006, the "Museum on Wheels" programme has been operating, which aims to familiarise the distant and bordering population of the Republic with their museum heritage.
The "Union of Armenian Libraries" was created to improve international cooperation, ensure innovation, compare the work of Armenian libraries, and to exchange best practice. There are currently 25 Armenian libraries that are members of this union. In 2006, the Union became a member of IFLA (International Federation of Library Associations).
The Armenian National Archive (SNPO) was established on the basis of the archive department attached to the government and the central and marz state archives. In 2005, the national film library also joined this SNPO. The same year, the Armenian archive system transferred to the Ministry of Territorial Administration. In 2004, the National Assembly adopted the Law on Archives Business, which regulates the most important key issues of the archives sector, particularly the issues connected with the replenishment, finances, reservation and usage of archive documents by state governing bodies, state institutions and organisations. During 2005, archives were established in many bodies of state governance and the improvement process is ongoing.
One of the main directions of state cultural policies is the preservation of non-material (spiritual) cultural heritage, which includes preserved, implemented and verbally transferred traditional cultural values in three areas: folklore, ethnography, and national art and handicrafts. In 2006, the government approved the "conception on preservation of non-material cultural heritage and improving its viability". The adoption of a law in this area is in the development stage.
In the field of cultural heritage, the main disputes concern the protection of cultural values. The most recent example is the broad public discussions concerning the digitalisation of cultural values and, particularly, of Armenian manuscripts. The problem is that the digitalisation of those manuscripts was to be realised by a private foreign organisation, with a loss of copyright, to which the majority of society objected. The public demanded that the work should be carried out by the state even though it would take a longer period and that the copyright should be reserved by the state in cases where manuscripts are recognised as national cultural items of particular importance.
In 2008-2012, the main cultural heritage policy issues were: