For several years, the value of ‘cultural heritage’ has been understood in a broader concept, including the preservation of historical monuments and the protection of cultural heritage. The Framework Convention on the Value of Cultural Heritage for Society (Faro 2005) of the Council of Europe is based upon this broader definition. The Faro Convention was signed and ratified by Austria and implemented in 2015. The convention extends the concept of culture in relation to other conventions, underlines the responsibility of each state for its cultural heritage, emphasises the close connection between cultural heritage and sustainable development and stresses the value of cultural heritage for society and people. In 2016, the österreichische kulturdokumentation was assigned to review and evaluate the status quo in Austria. The report makes proposals for projects and measures to take forward the implementation of the conventions’ objectives.
Since then, Austria has been asked to take measures; for example, a wide range of activities and events has been launched during the European Year of Cultural Heritage 2018. The European Union initiative was intended to contribute to raising awareness of cultural heritage, promoting the enhancement of cultural heritage and strengthening cooperation with neighbouring countries. An inter-ministerial working group was set up at the Federal Chancellery, involving the various federal ministries, representatives of the federal states, of the Federal Monuments Office and of civil society, in order to implement EYCH2018 in Austria. In May 2018, the Federal Chancellery initiated the conference Nicht in Stein gemeißelt. Kulturelles Erbe neu denken im Europäischen Kulturerbejahr 2018 [“Not Carved in Stone: Rethinking Cultural Heritage in the 2018 European Cultural Heritage Year”]. The highlight of the theme year was the #EuropeForCulture final conference, also held in Vienna in December 2018 as part of the Austrian EU Presidency, which was attended by 500 participants. It offered political decision-makers from all over Europe as well as representatives from civil society and others the opportunity to exchange views on developments and to continue work on the cultural heritage year. During the conference, the European Commission presented its planned activities to make the ideas of the European Heritage Year effective beyond 2018 and to facilitate participation, sustainability, the protection of cultural assets, innovation and global partnerships (European Framework for Action on Cultural Heritage).
Monument protection with the key tasks of protection, care, research, and communication, is directly administered by the National Heritage Agency (Bundesdenkmalamt), which has decentralised branch offices (Landeskonservatorate) in each Bundesland. The Federal Monuments Office falls under the jurisdiction of the Federal Chancellery. Division II/4 for the Protection of Monuments and Restitution of Art also deals with matters of architectural and archaeological heritage, cultural landscapes, provenance research and the restitution of looted art. The funding departments of the Federal Chancellery also support activities in the field of cultural heritage or the mediation of cultural heritage, but there are no specific programmes. At the national level, the digitisation of cultural heritage is an important issue in which, for example, federal museums and other national institutions and organisations are involved. The Kulturpool, as an overview and search portal for Austria’s digital cultural heritage, offers central access to digitised Austrian cultural heritage resources.
Some of the country’s most important cultural institutions in the heritage field are: the federal museums, the Austrian National Library, the Austrian Phonotheque (sound archives), the Vienna Court Orchestra, the Federal Office of Historic Monuments, the Austrian Film Archive and the Austrian Film Museum. Each of these institutions has been undergoing a process of change with regard to their organisational, juridical and economic structures. The most crucial reform has been the decision to grant full legal status to the federal museums and transform them into scientific institutions under public law – an important step towards more autonomy.
All these institutions are committed to the promotion of the rich cultural heritage in the 21st-century and there are numerous educational programmes, especially for the younger generation. The government has awarded the Austrian Museum Prize annually (since 1988), with the aim of encouraging Austrian museums of different legal entities to design their content, presentation and communication in an appealing and contemporary way.
With the ratification of the UNESCO 2003 Agreement on the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, Austria has committed itself to the safeguarding of the country’s intangible cultural heritage. The national agency for intangible cultural heritage, established within the Austrian UNESCO Commission in 2006, is entrusted with the implementation of the agreement and the drawing up of a national directory. Since 2010, there have been more than 80 entries in the list of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Austria, including e.g. the Falconry, Romany (the language of the Burgenland Roma) and the Vienna coffee-house culture.
Cultural heritage matters are also dealt with by the provinces and municipalities in which corresponding institutions and facilities are supported.