4.2.2 Heritage issues and policies
Approach to cultural heritage issues
Cultural heritage in the Netherlands includes museums, historic buildings and sites, archaeology and archives and libraries, but also includes "cultural planning". This essentially involves working together with other interested parties and a development-oriented rather than conservation-oriented approach. Cultural heritage policy accordingly focuses more on the public and the possible uses of artefacts, than on the artefacts themselves.
The Minister of Culture, Ronald Plasterk, stresses in his policy memorandum Art for Life's Sake [Kunst van leven, 2007] that policy measures regarding monuments and architecture should be directed at improvement in the quality of the environment, not at individual buildings. Spatial quality can be realised by integrating and strengthening economic, ecological and socio-cultural values in spatial planning. In order to realise this vision, the Action Programme on Spatial Planning and Culture [Actieprogramma Ruimte en Cultuur] was launched in 2005, a joint initiative by 7 ministries (see also chapter 3.3).
Policy debates and major developments
Migrant heritage and culture
Despite growing public interest in cultural heritage, the costs of collection and preservation are high. In the cultural policy document 2001-2004, emphasis was placed on a more effective use of existing heritage, audience-reach and social gain by means of cultural education. Furthermore, it was stated that the cultural heritage of immigrants should be preserved and made accessible. After a meeting on migrants and migrant culture in 2001, an inventory was prepared by the Institute of Social History [Instituut voor Sociale Geschiedenis] in Amsterdam, looking for relevant material in 104 Dutch archives. It was advised to use the written, photographed and recorded fragments of migrant history for exhibitions in municipal archives throughout the country; in this context, for instance, a partnership between Foundation Avanço [Stichting Avanço], the Municipal Archive Rotterdam [Gemeentearchief Rotterdam], Historical Museum Rotterdam [Historisch Museum Rotterdam] en World Museum Rotterdam [Wereld Museum Rotterdam] was realised to research the cultural heritage of the Capeverdians in Rotterdam, for exhibitions, educational projects and documentaries. By organising such exhibitions, migrant organisations make themselves more visible to new audiences.
Exchange of art objects in museums
At the turn of the century, a debate was started concerning the "intermuseal" exchange of paintings, sculptures and other objects of art on the basis of loan agreements. More recently, the mobility of museum collections was put on the political agenda. Knowing that the ambition of exchanging collections between museums leads to increasing international traffic, the central government decided to introduce an indemnity regulation, which means that the state will absorb the insurance costs for museums preserving and exhibiting state owned collections. The regulation was launched in October 2004 during the Dutch EU presidency and welcomed by the museums. However, some were disappointed by the lower than expected financial ceiling that is built into the indemnity for budgetary reasons.
Limits tot Dutch art and cultural heritage collections
An important point of discussion in the past decade was (and still is) the selection processes needed to keep Dutch art collections in public art and heritage collection affordable and controllable. What should remain a permanent part of that collection as being of international, national or otherwise specific value and what could be removed and on what grounds? This selection process is part of the Delta Plan, a long-term policy plan relating to the preservation of the Dutch art and cultural heritage.
Changes to museum policy
In November 2005, State Secretary Medy van der Laan presented a policy paper on museums to Parliament: Preserve in order to proceed [Bewaren om teweeg te brengen]. Major alterations in museum policy are proposed in this document. Museums that are subsidised by the Ministry will loose the existing 4 year funding system (the cultural policy period, see chapter 3.2). Instead, the Ministry announced new management contracts with the museums, stipulating the conditions for long-term funding (30 years). The grants will cover the running costs of the museums, such as staff, buildings, upkeep of the collections, new acquisitions and exhibitions. Management contracts will also include a periodical assessment of performance of the museums by a visiting committee of (inter)national experts. Apart from the running costs, additional funding will be available for specific activities of the museums aiming at, inter alia, increasing participation of target groups (youth, ethnical minorities), upkeep and presentation of the cultural heritage of minorities and heritage education programmes for school children. An earmarked budget for such activities will be transferred to the Public Cultural Fund Mondriaan Foundation [Mondriaan Stichting] (see chapter 8.1.2). All museums in the country, and thus not only museums subsidised by the Ministry (about 30), will be eligible for grants from this budget.
Less historic buildings on the official list of monuments
Due to budget reductions, historic buildings will be designated as national monuments only on an incidental basis. Exceptions will be made for important monuments that would deteriorate excessively without state help. New selection criteria are formulated in order to create regulations that are well balanced, easy to handle and affordable.
In her 2003 policy document More than the sum [Meer dan de som], State Secretary Medy van der Laan describes the process of Digitisation as a vital tool for cultural heritage organisations. She adds, however, that ICT initiatives are seldom in line with the national infrastructure and fail to be noticed by the general public. They should be united in a single digital collection within the Netherlands, easily accessible to the public, so that they can be informed regarding the nationwide cultural supply. This process of unification is coordinated by Digital Heritage Netherlands [Digitaal Erfgoed Nederland, DEN], which has the task of coordinating the digitisation of heritage matters and making them more accessible to both professionals and the general public.
For more information, see
European Heritage Network: Country profile of the Netherlands