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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 issues were the national museum policy, planning and collection policy and governance. The museum regulations were revised and reformulated and framework objective agreements for museums came into force, setting priorities and sharpening the profiles of the individual institutions, to achieve better transparency of the collections and to promote digitalisation.

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.

The Framework Convention on the Value of Cultural Heritage for Society (Faro 2005) was signed and ratified by Austria as well; it entered into force in 2015. The convention extends the concept of culture in relation to other conventions, underlines the responsibility of each state for its cultural heritage and emphasises the close connection between cultural heritage and sustainable development. Austria is now asked to taking measures for the implementation. The österreichischekulturdokumentation was therefore assigned to review and evaluate the status quo in Austria and to make proposals for projects and measures to take forward the implementation of the conventions' objectives.

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

Chapter published: 02-02-2016

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