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Austria/ 4.2 Specific policy issues and recent debates  

4.2.2 Heritage issues and policies

Some of the country's most important cultural institutions in the heritage field are: the federal museums, the Austrian National Library, the Austrian Phonotheque (sound archives), the Vienna Court Orchestra, the Federal Office of Historic Monuments, the Austrian Film Archive and the Austrian Film Museum. Each of these institutions has been undergoing a process of change with regard to their organisational, juridical and economic structures. The most crucial reform has been the decision to grant full legal status to the federal museums and transform them into scientific institutions under public law – an important step towards more autonomy.

A debate on the financial situation and content-related overlaps between those federal museums, in which various experts, political parties, museum directors and media representatives were involved, led to a comprehensive reform of the federal museums in 2010. Core themes were the national museum policy, planning and collection policy and governance. The museum regulations have been revised and reformulated and framework objective agreements for museums came into force.

The points of emphasis of the implementation of the museums reform are:

  • increasing the budget for the federal museums and the Austrian National Library to 150 Mio. EUR;
  • raising the profile of the individual museums and setting priorities;
  • facilitating broad participation in the museums;
  • transparency of the collections for low-threshold access;
  • development of digitalisation strategies for the collections;
  • development of programmes related to the issues of the time;
  • annual subsidy for participatory projects;
  • free admission for all children and young people up to the age of 19;;
  • projects with schools, integration into teacher training, strategies for life-long learning; investment of EUR 600 000 in 31 art education projects in cooperation with KulturKontakt Austria
  • promotion of contemporary art;
  • extension of the Mumok (Museum of Contemporary Art);
  • extension and development of research in the museums, national and international research cooperation (first initiative: For Muse, a several-year support programme for applied art and the University of Applied Art);
  • feasibility study for a new concept for the museum of applied art and the University of Applied Art; and
  • further measures: regular working meetings with the Culture Division of the Chancellery; regular directors' conference.

In the framework of the free admission for children and young people to federal museums and the Austrian National Library, introduced in 2010, with a budget of EUR 600 000 and in cooperation with KulturKontakt Austria, the former bmu:kk started an educational offensive. Under this programme, school students are planning an exhibition in the Kunsthistorische Museum with objects they have selected themselves – the project "Belvedere Hautnah: Ein Schloss zum Angreifen" [Belvedere Up Close: A Castle to Touch] was conceived for school students with visual impairment. The MAK, MUMOK and the Natural History Museum have also developed special educational concepts for children and young people. The benefits are evident as there has been an increase of almost 30% in visitor numbers under 19 and almost 20% in full-price visitors.

In addition, the former minister of culture had drawn up a master plan for investment in the federal museums up until 2013 with a total sum of EUR 51.5 million, comprising three central projects: the reopening of the Kunstkammer [Art Chamber] in the Vienna Kunsthistorisches Museum and the establishment of a literature museum in the Austrian National Library. With these and a further project, the reopening of the 21er Haus, a museum and exhibition hall for contemporary art, associated with the Belvedere (formerly 20er Haus), the minister set an innovative tone for the Austrian museum landscape.

With the ratification of the UNESCO 2003 agreement on the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, Austria has committed itself to the safeguarding of the country's intangible cultural heritage. The national agency for intangible cultural heritage within the Austrian UNESCO Commission is entrusted with the implementation of the agreement and the drawing up of a national directory.

For more information, see
European Heritage Network: Country profile Austria

Chapter published: 02-07-2015

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