4.2.2 Heritage issues and policies
The recent debate on cultural heritage has broadened the current heritage concept. As well as the cultural monument protection branch, libraries, archives, museums, and the intangible cultural heritage are now recognised as important resources for the development of the knowledge society and for cultural tourism. Apart from that, the Ministry of Culture supervises the digitalisation projects and the implementation of programmes and conventions of the UNESCO.
There are a number of state authorities implementing cultural policy in these fields: the State Inspection for Heritage Protection; Latvian National Centre for Culture (Centre implements national cultural policies in the field of intangible cultural heritage and its associated fields of amateur arts as well as in culture education) and the Latvian National Archive (in 2011, after reorganisation, 18 state archive institutions were merged into a single one). As a result of structural reform, the State Authority on Museums has been integrated into the structure of the Ministry of Culture (see also chapter 7.3). The mission of the Centre of Culture Information Systems is to develop IT tools in order to safeguard and distribute the cultural heritage of archives, libraries and museums. The Centre is responsible for digitalisation projects in cultural heritage institutions, many of them implemented with the assistance of the EU Structural Funds.
Municipalities are directly responsible for funding and administering municipal libraries, municipal museums, cultural heritage objects and intangible heritage, notably folk art. Private operators are involved in the field mainly as owners of cultural heritage objects and private museums.
The Ministry of Culture's budget for heritage protection increased significantly until 2009. A special programme Heritage 2018 was approved and is being implemented since 2006. The aim of the programme is to restore and modernise all of the over 100 architecture heritage objects in state property up to the 100th anniversary of the Republic of Latvia: the first phase was 2006 – 2009, when 25 objects were restored (14 in Riga and 11 in the regions). During the 1st phase, it was planned to invest 42.6 million LVL (60.1 million EUR). However, in 2009, due to the economic crisis, the funding for the implementation of the programme was reduced. In the recent years, the situation has improved and numerous cultural heritage buildings are under reconstruction. This delay has been criticised because several major cultural institutions (such as the main building of the Latvian National Museum of Art, the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia 1940-1991, The Museum of Literature and Music) are closed for reconstruction during the year 2014 when Riga is implementing the European Capital of Culture programme. Meanwhile, the new Museum of Art "Riga Bourse" was reopened in 2011 following reconstruction.
There are also a few special heritage protection and development programmes regularly supported by the Culture Capital Foundation. Another important financial source for development of the cultural heritage is the EU Structural Funds (see also chapter 4.2.8).
The most significant developments in the field have been digitalisation in the field of archives, museums and libraries (see chapter 4.2.11) and the construction of the Latvian National Library (see chapter 4.3).
In the field of intangible heritage, an important player is UNESCO and the UNESCO National Commission. In 2008, the Baltic Song and Dance celebrations were inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. In 2009, the Suiti cultural space was included in the UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding.
In recent years, there are two popular annual events that make tangible and intangible cultural heritage accessible to everybody: during the European Heritage Days Latvian historic and cultural sites are opened to the public, while the project "Find Your Master Craftsman" (that takes place in the framework of European Artistic Crafts Days) encourages people to learn traditional crafts.
For more information, see
European Heritage Network: Country profile Latvia
Chapter published: 03-07-2015