Cultural heritage has always been of great importance and pride in Georgia.
The main body responsible for the protection of cultural heritage is the Ministry of Culture, Sport and Youth in particular the General Inspection for Cultural Heritage and Cultural Property Protection (new Department) and the National Agency for Cultural Heritage of Georgia. Some responsibilities are also allocated to the National Committee of UNESCO under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The National Agency for Cultural Heritage of Georgia (established in 2008) has been constituted on the basis of the existing complex monuments of national and global significance. It represents their totality and is their legal successor. 15 complex monuments of national and world value are incorporated in the new agency. The register of tangible monuments of culture includes 7 915 items, and the register of intangible monuments of culture includes 65 items.
Georgia became a plenipotentiary member of UNESCO on the 7th of October 1992. 3 monuments of Georgian cultural heritage are included on the World Heritage List of UNESCO (Historic Monuments of Mtskheta, Gelati Monastery, Upper Svaneti) and 3 Georgian elements are registered in the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity (Georgian polyphonic singing, the Ancient Georgian traditional Qvevri wine-making method, the living culture of the three writing systems of the Georgian alphabet).
The following nominations from Georgia have been inscribed in UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register: Georgian Manuscripts of Byzantine Era, “Description of Georgian Kingdom” and “Geographical Atlas” by Vakhushti Bagrationi, Manuscripts of “The Knight in the Panther’s Skin” by Shota Rustaveli, Ancient manuscripts preserved in the National Archives of Georgia, and The Tetraevangelion-palimpsest.
One of the most difficult problems is the preservation of monuments in the occupied territories. In this context, in late 2012, the Georgian National Committee of the Blue Shield (ICBS) was established.
Georgia is actively involved in the work of UNESCO for the protection of cultural property in case of armed conflict. The country was a member of the Committee created by the Organization on this matter from 2013 to 2017.
Another thorny issue is the protection of the Georgian cultural heritage outside Georgia, namely, on the territory of Turkey, in the historical province of Tao-Klarjeti where old Georgian cathedrals are located and require restoration. The negotiations with the government of Turkey started in 2005 are underway and quite successful.
Archaeological excavations and conservation at the Ghalia Georgian Monastery in the Republic of Cyprus carried out since 2006 were successfully completed. In addition, the cooperation with the Russian Federation State Film Fund “Gosfilmofond” to transfer Georgian films produced in 1916-1990 started in 2015 and is underway.
Georgia actively cooperates with international partners – the Council of Europe (PP2), the European Commission (TWINNING), ICROM, ICOM, ICOMOS, IUCN, and the European Heritage Network.
In 2020 the museum system of Georgia included 249 museums of various profiles, which are subordinated to and financed from different levels of authority. Since the Rose Revolution, museum reform has been a priority; in particular, improvements in museum administration have been stipulated. A first step was the creation of the National Museum of Georgia (30.12.2004). According to 2020 data, 18 museums subordinate to the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Youth Affairs, including the Georgian National Museum – which includes 12 museums, 1 national gallery, 4 house-museums and 2 scientific research centres.
In 2021, the new Minister of Culture, Sports and Youth put the Shalva Amiranashvili Art Museum, part of the National Museum, under an emergency management regime for reconstruction and safe transfer of funds (including the National Treasury), which provoked mixed reactions in the expert community.
In recent years, the number of private museums have increased, for example, the Holoseum – AudioVisual Museum was opened in Tbilisi, one of the patrons of which is JSC Bank of Georgia.
In the strategic document “Culture Strategy 2025” (01.07.2016), Chapter III: Sector-specific Tasks
Cultural Heritage aim to:
- Introduce the Code on Cultural Heritage in compliance with ratified international conventions, in order to accomplish the harmonization of existing legislation concerning cultural heritage and ensure that all relevant aspects are adequately considered;
- Prepare new candidates from the intangible, tangible and natural heritage for submission to the UNESCO;
- Elaborate and reinforce different measures for safeguarding and monitoring cultural heritage in occupied territories;
- Digitalise and develop cataloguing of intangible and tangible cultural heritage for protection purposes and in order to increase public accessibility;
- Facilitate and promote scientific and research activities regarding tangible and intangible cultural heritage in Georgia and beyond its borders;
- Support archaeological fieldwork linked to cultural heritage and encourage the application of new technologies for research;
- Promote Georgian cultural heritage as the heritage of all mankind through different mechanisms;
- Ensure that the conservation of cultural heritage follows an integrated conservation approach and that urban, spatial and regional development plans take into consideration the protection of buildings, architectural ensembles, cultural heritage protection zones and landscapes of cultural value;
- Protect intangible cultural heritage, facilitate revitalization and practicing of endangered forms of intangible cultural heritage and raise public awareness;
- Support research and safeguard the Kartvelian languages (Georgian, Mingrelian, Laz, Svan) and tones, Georgian scripts and alphabet;
- Protect and develop endangered languages, especially the Abkhazian language, as a part of Georgian identity and intangible cultural heritage.
- Support local and international collaboration in order to share professional knowledge and museum practice and develop training programmes for museum workers;
- Support new initiatives in order to promote museums
- Support the protection and enrichment of Georgian museums’ collections in order to safeguard cultural heritage and to prevent the outflow of cultural heritage from the State;
- Encourage museums to apply new technologies, innovative approaches, interactive e-services, to develop and use diverse software applications, in collaboration with other museums, cultural institutions, universities and the business sector;
- Establish and develop virtual museums by means of digitizing museum collections and use of appropriate internet platforms, in order to encourage research, improve public accessibility, attract visitors and raise international awareness;
- Support the development of museums into public spaces, into institutions of educational and research purpose by implementing different programmes, including children and youth programmes;
- Support the establishment and development of thematic museums;
- Support efforts by the museums to set up and develop restoration centres of higher standard that comply with international criteria.