Print this Page
Print this Page

Developing heritage tourism has taken priority over heritage protection in recent years.


Results of a research project on the wider benefits of cultural heritage rehabilitation and exploring the heritage dividend are due in 2015.


A "White Paper for cultural heritage in Serbia" was planned in 2014, to be used as a road map for reforms at the different government, public and private levels.

Show all Profile-News...

Serbia/ 4.2 Specific policy issues and recent debates  

4.2.2 Heritage issues and policies

Activities concerning the protection of immovable cultural properties are carried out by institutes, including the Institute for Protection of Cultural Monuments of the Republic of Serbia (central body) and 11 Regional Institutes with territorial jurisdiction over funds for monuments located in their own territory. With the exception of Kosovo, where 3 institutes used to work, this network of institutes covers the entire territory of the Republic of Serbia. Currently, the above institutes for protection of cultural monuments employ 348 people, out of which 207 are qualified with bachelor or other higher educational degrees. 

Since 1947, these institutes have conducted research on 194 archaeological heritage-sites, 37 monumental heritage items and 2 cultural-historical areas. In the same period, 1 214 research projects on archaeological heritage-sites were conducted by museums and 117 research projects by scientific institutions (e.g. the Faculty of Philosophy-Archaeology, the Archaeological Institute of the Serbian Academy of Science and Arts). In 2005, 90 restoration projects in the fields of cultural heritage and museums were implemented. The majority of the projects have been carried out on monasteries, castles, museums, archives and six archaeological sites. Nowadays, institutes are developing outreach policies, organising more exhibitions, lectures, and participating in Museum nights. The exhibition Multicultural Belgrade: built heritage, opened in September 2011, as one of many projects of the Cultural Heritage Preservation Institute of Belgrade, aiming to raise awareness on Belgrade's multicultural past and the neglected heritage of others.

The protection and preservation of movable heritage (museum objects, archives, film and literary material) are carried out by museums, archives and libraries. There are 124 museums (43 regional museums and 81 museum branch offices, museum legacies and homeland collections), out of which there are: 3 natural museums, 13 economic-technical museums, 28 social-historical museums, 49 complex museums and 31 artistic museums. The National Museum in Belgrade is the central body in the Serbian museum network. There are also 5 museums with specific competencies: the Museum of Contemporary Arts, the Museum of Applied Arts, the Museum of Science and Technology, the Natural Museum and the Museum of Ethnology. 

There are 36 archives, with 17 636 archive funds. There are two types of archives: general archives and special archives. General archives deal with archive material from all social activity areas, while special archives deal with a defined archive material or some particular activity branch. Most Serbian archives are organised as general archives.

The public library network consists of 159 public libraries, out of which 40 libraries have homeland collections. In 2004, these public libraries employed 1 547 people, out of which 549 were qualified with bachelor or higher educational degrees. The Serbian National Library in Belgrade, the Library of Matica Srpska in Novi Sad, Belgrade City Library, as well as 24 district public libraries are the leading experts in the library network.

On the whole, the past decade represents a period of stagnation in the work of these institutes. This stagnation was caused not by the existing organisation, institutional network, or human resource potential, but rather by circumstances and problems of an economic, political and administrative character, by a concentration of power and funding in few hands, as well as by different kinds of pressures which hindered a professional approach, influenced results, and decreased efficiency.

During the past 5 years, notable efforts have been made to correct omissions and shortcomings resulting from the preceding period, to provide minimum working conditions and to lead the Institute's work into the mainstream of modern conservation. Some changes can be seen, such as efforts aimed at defining a development strategy and conservation policy, which would favour conservation planning. However, insufficient funding still hinders or makes the realisation of most of the planned conservation activities impossible to achieve. Under such circumstances, professional work, as well as timely expert, preventive and operational engagement in the protection and preservation of cultural heritage is rendered much more difficult.

The current situation in museums is still very difficult in spite of the fact that protection of cultural heritage is one of top priorities of the Serbian Ministry of Culture. The first Master's degree offering specific and systematic training and educational programmes for cultural heritage professionals started in October 2008. This course joined some partial initiatives in the form of life-long learning courses that have been developed by the Diana Centre of the National Museum. The central objectives of these educational courses have been focused on different conservation problems, management and conservation approaches to the care of cultural heritage.

The lack of personnel trained in preventive conservation, as well as educational training for new expertise and skills are not only problems in museums. Museums also have no specialised marketing and PR services, animators and professional cultural managers. That is one of the reasons why the broader public remains insufficiently aware of the value and significance of their heritage.

Certain progress has been achieved to re-establish professional contacts and co-operation with international institutions and organisations in the conservation field, with the aim of improving methodology and knowledge in this area, as well as opening up possibilities to engage expert consultants on the more complex professional problems.

Efforts have been made to improve conditions for institutional work in cultural heritage institutions. The reconstruction of the Yugoslav Film Archive new building (3 new halls with 500 seats) and the creation of 6 new depots for storing film material have been started. This initiative has received support from the French Government and the Serbian Ministry of Culture. The new building of the Film Library (Cinematheque) was opened on 6th June 2011, but regular programming has not yet started.

One of the most important issues of the cultural heritage system in Serbia is the problem of its financing. An open competition for financing cultural heritage projects was introduced in 2010. Competitions and public calls are not of a systemic character, nor do they have clear financial criteria, so that the diversity of projects is visible and so is a frequently small impact on the cultural heritage system due to the absence of synergy between different stakeholders that work on the same cultural heritage sites. Since 2003, a total of EUR 200 million has been invested in cultural heritage in total, i.e. EUR 16.5 million on average a year. Local self-governments in Serbia have no fiscal capacity to take part in capital heritage projects, which is witnessed by the fact that up to 2 smaller budget projects (between EUR 200 000 and 300 000) have been invested at local level. Significant fluctuations of funds have been discernible year after year, which hinders completion of projects. There is a lack of programme budgeting, therefore projects of financing of cultural heritage are not based on strategic priorities of financing, but rather on available resources in the current year. This can result in the rehabilitation of a single site taking several years more than what is realistically attainable. An important issue in heritage policy is unsystematic tourism exploitation of these resources, where no investment is made in conservation, presentation or valorisation of heritage. Very often tourism projects were implemented without professional cooperation with heritage protection agencies. This approach of turning heritage monuments into consumer-oriented entertainment projects is known as a "Disneyfication", with a huge tourism destruction impact on heritage resources.

In 2013, within the Ljubljana process, three localities in Serbia (Bač, Gamzigrad and Lepenski Vir) have become pilot projects for assuming and quantifying the wider benefits of cultural heritage rehabilitation and exploring the heritage dividend. The project was led by the Council of Europe and the London School of Economics in cooperation with national experts. The results of this research were due to be published at the beginning of 2015 and it is expected that the methodology developed within this project will be used in the future for monitoring and evaluation of heritage projects in Serbia.

However, after four years of reconstruction, work on National Library was finished successfully and it was reopened for users on 12 September 2011. 4.3 million EUR were spent on the building (plus some donations for information technology equipment from the private sector, i.e. 250 000 EUR from EFT energy Group) and the capacity of the reading rooms has doubled (600 places, each connected with the Internet). Many special spaces have been created such as a multimedia reading room, a room for blind people with special equipment, a reading room for periodicals, a reading room for researchers, a centre for librarianship and information sciences, a music reading room and a special funds reading room. The working hours of the Library have been extended (8am to 9pm during working days, and 8am to 3 pm on Saturdays), and it has already attracted many old and new users.

Four years before – only 17 000 users have been registered at the national library, while today, due to successful digitalisation, 20 000 daily users are visiting the virtual services of the National library. It is expected to have 300 000 users per year to the National Library and 8 million virtual users.

A very important part of the system of institutions dealing with the protection of cultural heritage is the network of institutes for protection of the built heritage. A leading institution in Belgrade is the Republican Institute for the Protection of the Heritage, and there are 6 regional institutes and several city institutes (Belgrade and Novi Sad). It is possible that the territorial jurisdiction of certain institutes will be revised due to the fact that some may cover too much territory, such as the Heritage protection institutes located in Nis and Kraljevo.

A clearly defined conservation policy, including improvements to the existing heritage protection service will require a modernisation of all areas: from legal protection, documentation, categorisation, technical protection, to presentation and use. 

The natural heritage is under the supervision of the Institute for the Protection of Nature, which covers 25% of the state territory; however, in fact, only 7.6% are officially and legally protected areas.

In May 2009, the Ministry of Culture organised a large national conference on Cultural policy in the sector of cultural heritage and transformation of institutions. It gathered all of the professionals from this sector in Serbia, as well as guests from the region and Europe. The plan was to provoke a debate about the topic, and come to some consensus about possible solutions.

In 2010 and 2011 special attention was given to immaterial heritage. Several seminars of regional and of national importance had been organised to promote knowledge and introduce skills necessary for the implementation of the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage.

In 2014, the second Forum on the Creative Economy was held in partnership with the Ministry of Culture and Information. The main topic of the Forum was "Cultural Heritage: challenges in the creative economy", where more than 27 participants discussed the main issues in cultural heritage policy and possible solutions for improving the heritage situation. It presented the analysis of existing policy measures for cultural heritage in Serbia and policy gaps and successful case studies for integrating heritage into the creative economy.  After the Forum, a new format of the policy paper will be produced as a "White Paper for cultural heritage in Serbia", which should be used as a road map for reforms in this field at the different government, public and private levels.

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

Chapter published: 14-08-2015

Your Comments on this Chapter?