The legislative and regulatory provisions in French law regarding heritage and some cultural services are contained in the Heritage Code.
This Code gives a broad definition of cultural heritage, covering all public and private buildings and movable property of historical, artistic, archaeological, aesthetic, scientific or technical interest (article L1).
The Code is divided into seven thematic books (book II to VI) and crosscutting books (books I and VII):
- book I: common legal provisions for the whole sector;
- book II: archives: different services and competences for public archives;
- book III: libraries (see chapter 4.2.5);
- book IV: museums, in particular, definition of the statute “musée de France“;
- book V: archaeology : creation, statute and missions of the National Institute for Preventive Archaeology (Institut national de recherches archéologiques préventives) ; creation and functioning of the National Council for Archaeological Research…;
- book VI: historical monuments, protected spaces and sites: there are two levels of protection of historical monuments: a monument can be “classified” (classé) or “registered” (inscrit) on the list of historical monuments, the highest level of protection is the classification (classement); and
- book VII: specific provisions for overseas territories.
Furthermore, there is a specific scheme: the general inventory of cultural heritage (inventaire général du patrimoine culturel), which is in charge of the inventory, study and promotion of the heritage elements with a cultural, historical or scientific interest. An inventoried element does not systematically become an historical monument. Created in 1964, this body was progressively devolved to the regions from 2004 onwards, even though the State holds authority for the coordination and control of the inventory operations:
- Article 95 of the law n° 2004-809 of 13 August 2004 relative to local liberties and responsibilities;
- Decree n° 2007-20 of 4 January 2007 that specifies the definitive transfer process of the regional departments of the general inventory of cultural heritage to the regional councils; and
- Administrative order (arrêté) of 17 February 2009 on the scientific and technical norms and standards to conduct the general inventory of cultural heritage.