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Switzerland/ 4.2 Specific policy issues and recent debates  

4.2.2 Heritage issues and policies

Many different parties are involved in heritage development in Switzerland. Cantonal offices cooperate with federal ones on almost all issues. The Culture Promotion Act governs cooperation between the federal government and the cantons. The federal government can acquire, collect, inventorise, and grant access to cultural assets (Article  7 CuPA). The cantons are responsible for cultural assets of cantonal importance, and are supported in their efforts by the federal government. Article 8 of the Culture Promotion Act lists the facilities and networks serving the federal government in its endeavour to preserve Switzerland's cultural heritage.

Built Heritage

Rich and varied landscapes, historic towns, villages, districts, individual buildings and archaeological sites are of outstanding importance for Switzerland's identity and quality of life. Monuments are an essential part of history. Preserving the country's monuments, townscapes, and archaeological sites has great economic significance, not least for maintaining the unbroken success of Switzerland as an attractive tourist destination.

The Federal Office of Culture (FOC) ensures that the concerns of archaeologists, monuments’ conservation, and townscape protection are taken into appropriate account on a federal level. The FOC lays the necessary foundations, assesses building plans and projects, and grants financial assistance. The FOC faces three key challenges during the next few years: changes in energy and land use policies; the shortage of financial resources to ensure sustainable conservation policies; lacking social awareness of the concerns of archaeology and monuments conservation.

Audiovisual Heritage

The systematic collection of photographs, sound documents, films, and videos began only a few decades ago. The preservation of Switzerland's audiovisual heritage must rely on a fairly recent knowledge of collecting and conserving such cultural assets. The technological developments coinciding with digitisation over the past 15 years pose new challenges, because long-term digital archiving, as well as providing access to and disseminating such data, differs fundamentally from the preservation of analog items.

The Swiss Confederation supports the preservation of the country's audiovisual heritage. It funds three institutions responsible for collecting, preserving, restoring, and disseminating Switzerland's audiovisual heritage in different areas:

  • Fondation Cinémathèque Suisse (Lausanne);
  • Stiftung Fonoteca Nazionale Svizzera (Lugano); and
  • Schweizerische Stiftung für Photographie (Winterthur).

Besides these three archiving institutions, which have their own collections, the Confederation funds a fourth organisation—Memoriav, a national networking association—that develops and disseminates specialist knowledge for the preservation and development of the country's audiovisual heritage and that supports individual projects conducted by third parties with the help of federal funding.

Documentary Heritage

The Swiss National Library has a certain number of coordination and promotion programmes at its disposal to carry out this work, partly or entirely funded by the federal government. These include:

  • Helvetica: Under the name "Helvetica", the Swiss National Library collects publications related to Switzerland, works printed in Switzerland as well as works printed abroad if they are related to Switzerland and its population, regardless of the importance of these works;
  • Literary Archives: The remit of the Swiss Literary Archives, besides the collection and preservation of the estate of Swiss authors, is to open up, research, and convey to a wider audience the works of such authors. Inventories are made accessible online via the archival databases of the National Library (see The Swiss Literary Archives celebrated their twentieth anniversary in 2011;
  • Graphics Collection: The Graphics Collection contains iconographic documents pertaining to geography, social mores and customs, and Swiss cultural and political themes, especially as depicted in printed graphics from the seventeenth to twentieth centuries. The collections of printed graphics and photography both emphasise vistas of Switzerland and portraits of famous Swiss personalities;
  • Coordination of microforms of Swiss newspapers (Koordination der Mikroformen von schweizerischen Zeitungen), which is responsible for microfilming important sections of Swiss newspapers and for digitising federal libraries and their collections;
  • The Federal Archive for Monument Preservation (FAMP), which undertakes the documentation of restored objects, including approximately two million photographs and negatives as well as plans and reports on the history of architecture, historical monuments, and landscape protection. FAMP acts as the "Swiss picture archive" and is open to the public.

A further institution involved in heritage development in Switzerland is the National Information Centre for Cultural Property Conservation, which was founded in 1988 as an association concerned with the maintenance of cultural goods. It is responsible for the collection, exchange and distribution of information on the maintenance of cultural goods in accordance with a set of established rules.

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

Chapter published: 21-04-2018

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