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Denmark/ 4.2 Specific policy issues and recent debates  

4.2.2 Heritage issues and policies

Danish heritage policy is being implemented and managed through the Danish National Cultural Heritage Agency which wasestablished in 2002. In this way, an integrated approach to heritage policy is being promoted.

  • Since January 2006 (earlier for the National Museum), there has been free admission for everyone to Denmark's two biggest museums, The National Museum and The National Gallery, and for children and young people under 18 to all state and state subsidised museums. These steps have been taken to increase access, for all groups including those who are less well off and people with ethnic backgrounds other than Danish.
  • In 2006 a committee was established to evaluate and debate the need for digital preservation of written cultural heritage as well as maps and photographs. In 2009 the committee and the Ministry of Culture published a report describing the need for and possibilities related to preserving the cultural heritage digitally.  
  • By December 2004, the Ministry of Culture implemented by Law that the Royal Library and the state and University Library should carry through "web harvesting" to ensure the Preservation of Danish Cultural Heritage on the Internet.
  • In cooperation with the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Culture established a web portal ( where schools and pupils can get access to digital educational material on cultural heritage published by museums. The project was initiated in June 2006.
  • In 2010 the website "1001 fortællinger" was launched by the Danish National Heritage Agency, a website containing stories from Danish history from all parts of the country. It is an interactive website that invites users to contribute stories and thereby involves the Danish people in writing about Danish history.

The Ministry of Culture's museum-report

The former Minister of Culture Carina Christensen (K) took the initiative to organise themed conferences for museum professionals, researchers and politicians in the municipalities to review the future of museums as a part of the "Culture for all" strategy (see chapter 4.1). The background was the alarming figures from cultural participation and habits surveys from 2004 (see chapter 4.1 and chapter 8.2.1), which documented that a third of the Danish population was not visiting museums. This should be corrected with tools of cultural policy. The intention is that knowledge and ideas from the conferences should be part of a total report examining the challenges of museums and setting up recommendations that will form a museums service that is able to survive in the future given the new conditions.

On 1 October 2010, a mid-way report that focused on organisational problems was published by the Ministry of Culture. The final report with recommendations to the politicians should be ready by the beginning of 2011.

The mid-way report has given rise to some debate in the museums field and among historians and curators. Among other things it has been criticised for unilaterally focusing on organisational questions without discussion the qualitative challenges that museums in Denmark and other countries will meet in the future. In a globalised society, museums are facing a shift in paradigm, where the modernistic tradition, museum-communication and the content of the communication should be rethought. Only a limited group of the population visits museums. Many years of effort on spreading the Danish cultural heritage to a large part of the population has failed.

In addition to this is the question of values of museums in regard to the multicultural challenges in a global world. On one side, both art and cultural museums are obliged to respond to contract management, the Danish cultural canon and politically defined support schemes  to focus on communicating the Danish cultural heritage. On the other side, it is required that the museums play an active role in integration processes of non-ethnic Danes. Finally, museums are required to play a role in the experience economy and promote cultural tourism and marketing of Denmark in the global market economy. This raises a series of qualitative challenges to museums that, according to critics, ought to be a part of the cultural policy agenda:

Are public museums as non-profit organisations entering a gray area with more commercial and traditional national values or a sublime combination of the two rationales? Does Denmark want the national state to create framework conditions for inclusive museums that tell stories with an "intercultural" or "multicultural" approach? What content and meaning could be understood in the two concepts? How can this be translated into practice? Do the cultural policy government officials find it more relevant to develop museums as strategic media for construction of a homogeneous national unity culture and cultural assimilation of non-ethnic Danes? Is the ongoing museum-analysis and its cultural policy strategy of centralisation and merging of museums a showdown with the traditional modernist museum, with its strong visual representation of the national state and the creation of national values? What challenges and opportunities does digitisation bring to the future of museums? How can art museums open up and combine the traditional work-based art communication with the new process-oriented trends in contemporary art with interdisciplinary, cross-media, performance and interactive art forms, digitalised and group produced net art in cyberspace (see the discussion below on Danish art policy's new challenges)? Which challenges does digital communication create for museum policy? How can cultural policy respond?

Will the final museum-report open the lid on a discussion of these qualitative issues? Will there be research from Denmark and abroad as a foundation for a versatile, open and valid discussion about the future potential and roles of museums in the global experience society? What are the consequences if you submit one or the other rationale as a basis for museum policy? The cultural groups eagerly await the coming answers to these essential cultural and museum policy issues and challenges (see also chapter 8.1). The report has been published (see chapter 4.1).

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

Chapter published: 03-07-2015

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