The system of state heritage conservation works to protect and provide professional oversight of a significant part of the cultural heritage of the Czech Republic. It involves not just agencies of public administration but also a very wide circle of other entities, owners of heritage sites, and owners of real estate that is located within heritage-protected areas.
A general interest in protecting and preserving cultural heritage and the living environment in settlements and the landscape that is good for society is declared as part of the constitutional order of the Czech Republic and is specifically stated in the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Basic Freedoms (Art. 35 par. 3 and Art. 11 par. 3 and 4). The primary piece of legislation for heritage conservation is the Act on State Heritage Conservation – Act No. 20/1987 Coll.
The state organisation established to work on heritage conservation is the National Heritage Institute. It acts as the custodian of 103 heritage objects, which are accessible to the public, and also performs the function of an expert body in the field of heritage conservation, in line with Act No. 20/1987 Coll., on State Heritage Conservation.
In the field of cultural heritage, the key task is the proposal of a new Act on Cultural Heritage that should redefine public interest in the protection of cultural heritage, strengthen the role of cultural monument owners, simplify public administration in the field of cultural heritage or create a fund for motivating owners of cultural heritage. One essential preparatory step was to elaborate a statement of purpose for the Heritage Act that the Government of the Czech Republic adopted in Resolution No. 156 dated 6 March 2013. Since that time, however, progress has still not been made on preparing the new Act on Cultural Heritage.
The support and protection of monuments and cultural heritage in the Czech Republic (CR) has been a primary aim of all cultural policies. In the State Cultural Policy for 2015-2020 the main priorities in this area are the modernisation of infrastructure, the conservation of cultural heritage as an environment that supports creativity, and the use of cultural heritage towards the development of the economy and improving competitiveness. In this respect, it also concentrates on the digitisation of cultural materials and support for creative ways of presenting cultural heritage.
On 13 January 2017 the government adopted the Concept of Heritage Conservation in the Czech Republic for 2017–2020. This Concept is divided into two basic parts. The first part offers an assessment of the degree to which the Concept for 2011–2016 was fulfilled. The second part outlines the specific goals that heritage conservation in the Czech Rekublic seeks to achieve. Priority goals that were identified in this include the need for a relationship with the general public that in both directions is more open and more directly connected, and a call for legal assurances, intelligibility, and transparency in matters relating to the protection of cultural monuments and the overall stabilisation and strengthening of the role of heritage conservation in society.
In the field of movable cultural heritage, the MC is responsible for 18 museums, galleries, and monuments and for the National Film Archive (see also 3.2.). Museums and galleries are dealt with in the Concept for the Development of Museums in the Czech Republic for 2015-2020, which is the third strategic document in this field. The first and most fundamental strategic objective is to maintain the capacity of public museums and galleries to professionally manage and expand collections and to cultivate a better understanding of them through academic research. The second objective is to create a better legal and economic environment for this field and the third is to expand the services of museums and galleries by employing the technological innovations of the 21st century.
The MC operates a unique database on museum-like collections that has slowly become a ‘Virtual Exhibition of Czech Museology’. An oral description of more than two and a half thousand objects is accompanied by visual materials, including photographs of objects, images from depositaries, laboratories, etc. Registration in this database is a precondition for applying for some grants from the ‘Integrated System of Movable Cultural Heritage Protection’.
In the field of the protection of intangible cultural heritage – folk music, theatre, dance, rituals, and traditional craft procedures – the UNESCO Convention on the Preservation of Intangible Cultural Heritage was ratified in the CR in 2009. In May 2009, this Convention became part of the system of law in the CR, which is the first time that intangible cultural heritage has been supported by law. For the purpose of implementing this Convention, a network of information, training, and methodological bodies was set up for the documentation and conservation of traditional folk culture. At the national level the MC assigned this task to the National Institute of Folk Culture and at the regional level to museums designated by regional authorities. These regional bodies cooperate on fulfilling their tasks with other museums in the region and with national museums with ethnographic units (National Museum, Moravian Museum, Silesian Museum, Wallachian Open-Air National Museum in Nature, National Agricultural Museum), and they develop their own networks of volunteers and use the services of local chroniclers and the resource network of the Czech Ethnographic Society.
In conformity with the Convention, the National Council of Traditional Folk Culture, an advisory body of the Ministry of Culture, discusses nominations for the List of Intangible Properties of Traditional Folk Culture.
In 2016 the Government of the Czech Republic approved the third successive Concept of More Effect Conservation of Traditional Folk Culture in the Czech Republic for 2016–2020. This Concept is intended to define the instruments that can ensure more effective conservation of traditional folk culture as a series of coordinated measures, the objective of which is to more effectively identify, document, protect, use, and pass on traditional folk culture to the next generations.