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Finland/ 4.2 Specific policy issues and recent debates  

4.2.2 Heritage issues and policies

The main focus in the last few years in the Finnish heritage field and national cultural heritage policies has been the ratification processes and the implementation of international heritage conventions, namely Unesco Convention on the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, Council of Europe Faro Convention on the Value of Heritage for Society and the Unesco World Heritage Convention. The other main issue has to do with the digitalisation of cultural heritage, with great leaps happening in 2016. The last three years have also been a time of strategic policy development in the field of cultural heritage and cultural environment, with the preparation of Finland’s first ever cultural environment strategy and a new World Heritage Strategy. Also, in 2016 work towards a new museum policy programme was started. In addition, museums are also directly affected by the process of renewing of the system of national financing of professional museums, theatres and orchestras, the so called state’s share system (valtionosuusjärjestelmä, VOS in Finnish; see chapter 6), which started in 2015.

The question of integration of immigrants and asylum seekers has also been a central theme in the field of cultural heritage and the work of Finnish heritage organisations, with museum and taking an active role in developing projects for the integration of immigrants through cultural means.

World heritage

World heritage in the Unesco framework has been one of the main emphasises of Finnish heritage policies in the last two years. The main reason for this is Finland’s membership of the Unesco World Heritage Committee for 2014-2017. Finland has been a member of the Committee also once before, in 1997-2002. 

Finland ratified the Convention concerning the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage (the UNESCO World Heritage Convention, 1972) in 1987. At present the World Heritage List contains six Finnish World Heritage sites and one Natural Heritage Site:

  • Fortress of Suomenlinna (since 1991);
  • Old Rauma (1991);
  • Petäjävesi Old Church (1994);
  • Verla Groundwood and Board Mill (1996);
  • Bronze Age Burial Site at Sammallahdenmäki (1999);
  • Struve Geodetic Arc (2005); and
  • Kvarken Archipelago (2006).

In addition to the committee membership, a national world heritage strategy was presented in 2015. The strategy outlines Finnish policy on world heritage and the implementation of the Unesco World Heritage Convention for the ten-year period of 2015–2025. According to the strategy, Finland is a responsible and influential actor in world heritage issues, while the world heritage sites of our own country serve as a model for other nations in the conservation, maintenance and presentation of the sites. Viable habitats are a key element of the world heritage to be passed on to the future generations.

In spring 2016 a working group, comprising of members from relevant ministries, world heritage sites and stakeholders responsible for the implementation, started to develop a more detailed implementation plan for the strategy. The plan, called Fostering Our Common Heritage; Implementation Plan for the National World Heritage Strategy until 2025, was published in autumn 2016 and sets out the methods, timetables, budgets and follow-up procedures for the implementation.

In 2015 the Governing Body of Suomenlinna, together with its stakeholders in the tourism industry, presented a first sustainable tourism strategy for Suomenlinna as a world heritage site. In 2013−2014, Suomenlinna participated in sustainable tourism planning for World Heritage Sites along with 14 other World Heritage Sites located in the Nordic countries and the Baltic region, which was one of the key factors in initiating the Suomenlinna strategy work. The aim of the strategy is to integrate the objectives of both site conservation and tourism development. The sustainable tourism strategy provides Suomenlinna’s stakeholders with an instrument and common guidelines that help conserve its World Heritage value. See:

Finland is currently formulating a new tentative list of world heritage sites for inscription into to the World Heritage List. One of the suggested sites is the Paimio Sanatorium, designed by Alvar Aalto in 1929-33. The Sanatorium was already in the previous tentative list from 2002.

Adopt a Monument

Finnish awareness-raising heritage program, ‘Adopt a Monument’, encourages citizens to ‘adopt’ monuments of cultural and historic significance in their communities, to care for them and to put them back into use. The program encourages everyone to appreciate and preserve sites in their own neighborhoods. The caretaking of an old building or archaeological site is done on a voluntary basis. The adopter does not own its site, but maintains it, monitors its condition, can research its history and organize variety of events on the site. The project is facilitated by the Pirkanmaa Provincial Museum in Tampere and it was started in 2008, inspired by Adopt-a-Monument -program run by a Scottish citizen-based organization Archaeology Scotland. The first caretaking contracts of archaeological sites were signed in 2009. In 2013 architectural and built heritage was added to the program. ‘Adopt a Monument’ has grown rapidly and has enjoyed tremendous popularity in Finland. New monuments are being added and it has started to spread from Pirkanmaa in central Finland to the rest of the country.

Caretaking of the adopted monuments is based upon agreements signed between the owner of the site, the adopter and the Pirkanmaa Provincial Museum. A management plan for the site is formulated, taking into account its condition, maintenance needs, as well as the caretaking group’s resources. The adopter may be for example a community, an association, a company or a public entity, such as a school. Some groups have formed an association specifically to meet the criteria of an adopter.

Adopt a Monument –program was selected as one of the winners of the 2016 European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Awards, Europe’s highest honour in the heritage field, in April 2016. All in all 28 laureates from 16 countries were recognised for their achievements in conservation, research, dedicated service, and education, training and awareness-raising. Independent expert juries assessed a total of 187 applications, submitted by organisations and individuals from 36 countries across Europe. The award is presented at a European Heritage Awards Ceremony in May 2016.

Europa Nostra European Heritage Conference will be organised in Turku, Finland in 2017 and will be part of the centenary celebrations of Finland’s independence.

Intangible heritage

Finland ratified the UNESCO Convention on the Safeguarding of the Intangible Heritage in 2013. The National Board of Antiquities was commissioned by the Ministry of Education and Culture to prepare a plan for the national implementation of the Convention. The plan, which was published in 2015, is based on extensive research and to hearings held with interest groups and the operators in the heritage sector. The plan describes the principles for the national implementation of the Convention, as well as the key operators and their tasks.

The implementation of the Convention is carried out in three main processes, which are national coordination, national inventorying and international cooperation. The implementation of the Convention will guided by an action plan for a term of four years.

The central actors in the implementation of the Convention are the Ministry of Education and Culture, the National Board of Antiquities, an expert group of intangible cultural heritage named by the Ministry of Education and Culture in autumn 2014, and so called circles of intangible cultural heritage, assembled from multidisciplinary networks of actors and following the UNESCO domains of intangible heritage (oral traditions and expressions, including language as a vehicle of the intangible cultural heritage; performing arts; social practices, rituals and festive events; knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe; traditional craftsmanship). The first circle to start operating was that of craftsmanship, in December 2015. In spring 2016 the ‘circle of nature’ was established. 

In February 2016 the National Board of Antiquities opened a wiki-inventory for intagible heritage. The purpose of the inventory is to compile information and present intangible heritage in Finland. It is open When the inventory was launched, it already listed some elements in order to give examples of the types of elements that can be listed. So far the inventory includes sauna and midsummer traditions, summer stock theatre, as well as Finnish baseball. The Romani song tradition, Sami handicrafts, the minuet tradition in Finland’s Swedish-speaking community, and African dance and music are also listed in the inventory.

Elements within the wiki-inventory can later be suggested for the national listing of intangible cultural heritage, which is to be published in 2017. From this listing, applications can then be made for the elements to be included in the international UNESCO listings. The Ministry of Education and Culture decides on both the national list and the elements to be taken forward at UNESCO level.

Faro Convention

The ratification process of the Faro Convention has been under way in Finland since 2014. The preparations for the Faro ratification has also been a part of the implementation of the Finnish National environment strategy (see below).

The Ministry of Education and Culture tasked the National Board of Antiquities with carrying out the preparatory review for the ratification of the convention. The work was carried out in collaboration with the Finnish Local Heritage Federation in 2014, and the review was published in May 2015.

The preparatory review recommends the ratification of the Faro Convention in Finland. The review mapped the development needs of the kind of cultural heritage work that could promote the objectives of the Faro Convention in Finland. The review also aimed for widespread citizen participation. The report from review stresses for value-based discussion on the importance of cultural heritage to society and the development directions of cultural heritage work. The report also recommends operating methods for supporting the sustainable cultural heritage work outlined by the Faro Convention. The Finnish Faro preparatory work was presented as a good example of a European cultural heritage governance top-down –projects in the European Expert Network on Culture (EENC) report mapping practices in member states (Margherita Sani et al 2015).

National Cultural Environment Strategy

In March 2014 the Finnish Government issued a resolution concerning the first national Cultural Environment Strategy. The strategy was prepared through widespread cooperation coordinated by the Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Education and Culture. Together with key operators in the cultural environment sector, a working group led by the Ministry of the Environment prepared an implementation plan for the strategy. The plan includes 54 concrete actions, the majority of which fall under the responsibility of the public administration. The goals of the cultural environment strategy have been crystallised into three viewpoints: cultural environment as an important resource, sustainable development, and good administration. Strategy in English:

In 2015, the Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Education and Culture made a commitment under Society’s Commitment to Sustainable Development (a national initiative to achieve sustainable development,, to carry out the implementation plan of the Cultural Environment Strategy. Further, the ministries are challenging other parties to make their own commitments to sustainable development for the purpose of contributing to the implementation of the strategy.

Finnish museums and the museum policy programme

In 2010 there were some 160 professionally managed museums, with more than three hundred operating locations. Two-thirds of these museums were historical museums, the rest were special museums, arts museums and museums of natural history. 22 of the museums are regional historical museums and 16 regional art museums. In addition there are 14 special museums focussing on particular sectors, like the Museum of Photography, Design Museum etc. From the point of view of minorities, of importance is the SIIDA-Institute, the home of the Sámi Museum and the Northern Lapland Nature Centre. With its cultural and nature exhibitions, SIIDA provides in its collections and exhibitions items of Sámi culture and nature of Northern Lapland.

Museum Card

Museum card is a common entrance ticket to Finnish museums. It was launched in Finland 5th May 2015, following the example of the Netherlands, where a similar card has been used for over 30 years. Currently there are over 220 Finnish museums involved in the system. According to the Finnish Museums Association, in the first year 60 000 museum cards, priced at 59 EUR (54 EUR for renewal), were sold in Finland. The card has been a great success, as the original goal was to sell 20 000 cards. In a customer satisfaction survey, 81% of the card holders gave the card a grade "very good". (

162 000 visits were paid with the Museum card in 2015. According to Finnish museum statistics, collected by the National Board of Antiquities, paid museum visits increased In Finland by 151 000 in 2015. Year 2015 was also the first year when the number free visits started to decline. Museum card is most likely the main factor behind the increase. The success is expected to continue in 2016. According to Museum card statistics, during January-April 2016 already 172 000 museum visits have been paid with the Museum card.

It is estimated that the Museum card will generate 5.5 million EUR for Finnish museum in 2016.The museums involved in the system receive 60% of the price of regular adult ticket from each visit paid with the card.


The Ministry of Education and Culture appointed a working group to prepare a new Museum Policy Programme in 2015. The previous programme, Museum 2000, dates back to 1999. The mandate of the working group runs from 1 August 2015 to 31 January 2016.

The objective of the Museum Policy Programme is to increase possibilities for participation in the museum sector and cultural heritage for all population groups and to boost the impact of this sector in society. Particular attention is to be focused on activities targeted at children and young people and the accessibility of services.

The working group was assigned to draw up a comprehensive report on the field of professionally managed museums in Finland and to formulate a view on its future and development needs. The working group is to prepare proposals for museum policy outlines and focal points based on cultural policy objectives and changes in the operating environment, accounting for changes at the local, regional, national and international level alike. Additionally, the working group will focus attention on the indirect impacts of the museum and cultural heritage sector, for example on promoting wellbeing and creativity as well as growth and employment. The working group is also to take into account the resolution of the Parliament (HE 303/2014) on drafting an overall reform of the Museums Act and ensuring that the new Act may be passed in the government term 2015-2018.

The remit of the working group is:

  • To prepare policy outlines and focal points for museum activities in Finland.
  • To take a position on the structure of the museum institution, effectiveness of the central government transfer system and the grounds for allocating funding.
  • To examine the status of regional museum activities and, in particular, the needs to develop the provincial and regional art museum system.
  • To look at the utilisation of museums and cultural heritage as a resource and their role in enabling new activities in different sectors.
  • To make proposals for new operating methods and the spreading of good practices.
  • To evaluate whether or not the Museums Act is up to date and to assess the need for an overhaul of the Act.

Digitisation of cultural heritage

The digitisation of cultural heritage for all "memory organisations" (museums, archives and libraries) has been a central information society and cultural policy strategy goal in Finland for almost fifteen years.

The outlines for the digitisation of cultural heritage for all "memory organisations" (museums, archives and libraries) are defined in the information society strategy documents of the Ministry of Education and Culture and in a special committee report on the heritage strategy in the information society, released in 2003. The digitisation is carried out in all three sectors as an integral part of all activities and the three "memory sectors" have established bodies for mutual co-operation.

The National Digital Library (NDL) is a project of the Ministry of Education and Culture which aims to ensure that electronic materials of Finnish culture and science are managed with a high standard, are easily accessed and securely preserved into the future. It is one of the key electronic research and culture infrastructures currently under construction in Finland. The National Digital Library is a part of the development of national electronic services and infrastructures. For over 20 years, the joint use of information has been addressed in policy outlines on public sector information management and the development of the information society in Finland.

The National Digital Library consists of two services, Finna ( and a Digital Preservation System.

Finna is a user interface search service, which brings together the collections of Finnish libraries, archives and museums. Finna provides free access to cultural content and digital information from Finnish museums, libraries and archives. The National Library of Finland maintains and develops Finna in cooperation with its partners

The Finna service features treasures from the collections as well as the latest research results. Users can access images of museum objects and works of art, digital documents, books, maps and reference data independent of time and place.

Currently, Finna provides access to materials of around 110 organisations (University and polytechnic libraries, Public libraries, Museums and Archives).

The metadata in has been been published in spring 2016 through an open application programming interface at Through the API, anyone can access the metadata for almost 9 million entries in the service. In spring 2016 Finna also opened a new search function with more than 200 000 open-licence images from the Finnish cultural heritage and more than 300 000 images under Creative Commons licences. This represents the largest amount of Finnish cultural data ever made openly available at one time.

The Digital Preservation System is a centralised digital preservation system designed to store digital cultural heritage objects of museums, archives and libraries. The national Digital Preservation Service ensures that original digital data (bit stream) of the information remains unchanged and can be preserved on up-to-date storage media. In the future the Digital Preservation Service will ensure that the digital information remains intelligible and that information can be accessed by future generations.

In early 2017 the web service for the National Board of Antiquities' picture collections opened more than 100 000 pictures for use in the –service with a CC BY-licence, which means the picture can be used also for commercial purposes, if the picture source and photographer are mentioned.

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

Chapter published: 16-07-2018

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