Print this Page
Print this Page

A new website on the UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage was launched in Spain in 2014.

Show all Profile-News...

Spain/ 4.2 Specific policy issues and recent debates  

4.2.2 Heritage issues and policies

At state level, the Sub Directorate-General for Historic Heritage Protection and the Spanish Cultural Heritage Institute are the organisms responsible for heritage policies. Both bodies are in charge of protecting cultural heritage, enriching the state-owned collections, promoting international cooperation related to heritage and restoring works of art and archaeological objects owned by the state, other public administrations or by the Church through a variety of plans, such as the National Cathedrals' Plan, the National Industrial Heritage Plan, the National Castles' Plan and the National World Heritage Plan.

Also noteworthy is the task carried out by National Heritage, an organism attached to the Ministry of the Presidency, responsible for the assets of state ownership that come from the legacy of the Spanish Crown. Among its goals, contained in the Action Plan 2013-2016 (updated in accordance with the 214/2014 Royal Decree), are the empowerment of the public service, the conservation of its heritage, the maintenance of budgetary stability and the modernisation of the organisation.

In general terms, the challenges facing the current heritage policy are basically three, namely:

  • updating national, regional and local policies (which is now underway);
  • developing plans to foster comprehension and validation of cultural heritage sites and properties as a tool to promote local cultural identity; and
  • differentiating, particularly at the local level, the intrinsic aims of conservation and protection and the extrinsic economic significance vis-à-vis tourism, within an overall regional policy.

Two other issues related to the current debate about Spain's cultural heritage are its diversity and the limits of its scope. This is part of an ongoing discussion about the term cultural heritage being extended to new fields, such as contemporary history, industrial properties and intangible heritage.

One of the goals of the Ministry of Culture / Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport during the last years has been to improve the management of historical heritage and to allow its integration in the "society of knowledge". The application of digital technologies and, above all, the availability of cultural heritage works to the general public via the Internet have become, according to the Minister, the most democratic and economical way to disseminate culture. With this goal, various initiatives have taken place in recent years.

During 2007, the Spanish Ministry of Culture worked to develop the Portal of Spanish Archives, a web-based database for the diffusion of national historical documentary heritage, and the Virtual Library of Bibliographical Heritage that allows users to consult a wide range of online documents from Spain's bibliographical heritage. The Virtual Library of Historical Newspapers is another major digitisation project, which participates in Europeana and Europeana Local projects.

In November 2009, the Museum Libraries Network (BIMUS) was initiated implying the creation of a large online catalogue which allows access to the catalogues of libraries from 18 state-owned museums. In 2010, the Spanish Ministry of Culture launched two projects: Hispana, the Digital Collections of Archives, Libraries and Museums (with functions that are analogous to those of Europeana) and, the online catalogue of the Digital Network of Collections of 80 Museums located in 11 Autonomous Communities, which offers, for the first time, unified access to cultural assets of Spanish museums. More recently, in January 2014, the Sub Directorate-General for Historic Heritage Protection launched a new website on the UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage and, in November 2014, the National Institute of Performing Arts and Music presented a new electronic publication The Map of Spanish Musical Heritage which offers a directory of around 360 institutions that safeguard this part of our heritage throughout the national territory.

Beyond the digitisation of cultural heritage, the government has undertaken other initiatives in this area. Thus, in 2007, the Ministry of Culture launched the National Plan for the Protection of Underwater Archaeological Heritage, which outlines basic guidelines for an effective protection policy. In November 2008, the National Museum of Underwater Archaeology (ARQUA) opened in Cartagena (Murcia). This is a pivotal institution in the Plan and seeks to become an international benchmark for renewal in the museology of underwater archaeology. The Green Paper of the National Plan for the Protection of Underwater Archaeological Heritage was presented in June 2010, following two years of work. It analyses the current status of underwater archaeology in Spain and proposes actions to foster effective protection. In collaboration with the Autonomous Communities, the Ministry of Culture has already launched some of the measures outlined in the Green Paper, and is arranging cooperation agreements with each of them to carry out archaeological maps. These maps locate the archaeological, paleontological, ethnographic, and industrial sites, as well as historic roads in the municipalities, which ensure their protection and conservation. It has also signed an agreement with the Ministry of Defence in order to optimise the resources of both Ministries for the protection of underwater heritage.

In 2010, the Technical Network of Institutes and Centres for Conservation and Restoration, which brings together all institutions of this type that exist in Spain, was created with the aim of promoting joint projects, technical assistance and establishing common criteria and methods for the conservation of cultural heritage. That same year, the Hispanic Portuguese Centre of Heritage opened its doors with the aim of becoming a place of reference for the protection, conservation, research and promotion of Spanish and Portuguese cultural heritage. Based on the exchange of knowledge and experiences and the construction of joint projects, the Centre pays particular attention to the heritage of areas on the border with Portugal, and promotes a cross-border network of centres. In early 2011, and in order to place the preventive conservation of heritage as a strategic public priority in the heritage sector, the government launched the new National Preventive Conservation Plan. With this aim and also to promote the protection of cultural heritage against disasters, in November 2013, the National Committee of the Spanish Blue Shield was established. Within its work plan, this body will develop a National Plan for Heritage Emergencies. Also in 2011, a new National Industrial Heritage Plan was approved with the aim of overcoming all difficulties related to the functioning and / or effectiveness of the control instruments derived from the previous Plan. At the end of 2012, the National Plans of Cultural Landscape and Defensive Architecture were approved with the specific aim to be innovative instruments to effectively apply an integrated approach for the management of cultural heritage, enabling research, conservation and dissemination. Also in the field of conservation, in early 2014, the Film and Audiovisual Arts Institute and the Spanish Radio & Television Corporation (RTVE) renewed their agreement for the preservation and dissemination of Spanish cinematographic heritage. With this agreement both institutions continue a line of work opened in 2012 with the digitisation and opening to the public of the documentary funds of RTVE and the Spanish Film Archive. This action has been highlighted by the European Commission as an example of "good practice" in the dissemination of film heritage.

Regarding intangible heritage, in June 2010, Spain was elected as a member of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee. Six Spanish NGOs were also elected as accredited organisations to advise on the Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage: the UNESCO Centre of Navarra, the UNESCO Centre of Catalonia, the UNESCO Centre of San Sebastian (Basque Country), the UNESCO Centre of the Autonomous City of Melilla, the Mediterranean Diet Foundation and the Centre for Borjanos Studies of the "Fernando el Católico" Institution. In addition, in October 2011, the National Plan for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage was passed and conceived as an instrument for management and cooperation between the regional authorities and the state to promote coordinated actions regarding the safeguarding of the intangible cultural heritage. At a regional level, some initiatives in this area are the Intangible Cultural Heritage Archive of Navarra, coordinated by the Public University of Navarra, and the Atlas of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Andalusia, prepared by the Andalusian Historical Heritage Institute (see also chapter 5.3.3).

Also in 2010, the Ministries of Culture, Industry, Tourism and Trade, and Foreign Affairs and Cooperation developed a Plan for the International Promotion of Cultural Tourism 2010-2012 with the aim of promoting the destination "Cultural Spain". In this line, at the end of 2013, the Ministries of Industry, Energy and Tourism, and Education, Culture and Sport signed a protocol to promote Spain as a cultural tourism destination. The protocol, which will end in December 2015, seeks to intensify the promotion of museums, performing arts and music events, thematic cultural routes, world heritage sites, manifestations of intangible cultural heritage, as well as the strategy "Study in Spain"

Another line of action, initiated by the Ministry of Culture at the end of 2010, is connecting young people to cultural heritage and involving them in heritage protection and dissemination. This initiative is part of the Young Heritage Programme and includes a website with information and news about issues and activities related to heritage and dissemination of multimedia materials in schools and associations, exhibitions and meetings. In April 2013, the National Plan for Education and Heritage was approved with the aims of promoting research in heritage education, innovation in teaching of cultural heritage, communication between educational and cultural managers, as well as the training of both groups in the transmission of heritage values. Within the framework of this Plan, at the end of 2014, the International Network of Heritage Education was created to facilitate coordination, dissemination and collaboration in heritage education among professionals from different countries, institutions and educational environments. Initially, the network has representatives from 15 countries of Europe, America, Africa and Asia (see also chapter 8.3.2).

In the museum sector in 2008, the Ministry of Culture launched the Permanent Laboratory on Museum Visitors that seeks to obtain relevant knowledge about visitors to the state museums.

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

Chapter published: 03-07-2015

Your Comments on this Chapter?