Investments and real estate are priority issues for the government in office since 2010. The area of monuments – built heritage – therefore received attention and was subject to restructuring from early on. The National Office of Cultural Heritage – the top institution of monument protection that had existed since 1872 – was dissolved in 2012 and most of the staff, including its officials in the counties, was transferred to the regional government authorities for general administration. The valuable archive containing the registry of tens of thousands of monuments was passed to an institution named the Forster Centre, which existed for four years. Since 2016 this collection has been held at the Hungarian Museum of Architecture and Monument Protection Documentation Centre, owned and supervised by MMA, the Hungarian Academy of Arts.
The ongoing reorganisation of the institutions of monument protection took a new turn by creating the Lechner Knowledge Centre Nonprofit Ltd under the Minister of the Prime Minister’s Office. This institution administers the current official tasks in the heritage protection area. (They run the European Heritage Days in Hungary, as well as other events.)
Since 2017, the bulk of the monuments in public ownership, more than 50 listed buildings, have been operated by NÖF Limited (NÖFNational Heritage Protection and Development Non-Profit LTD). Among others, NÖF oversees the National Palace Programme and the National Castle Programme, generously financed by the government, with due attention to their inclusion on the tourism strategy of the country. In this connection the reconstruction of hilltop fortresses is a special focus.
Hungarian achievements in cultural heritage protection are repeatedly acknowledged with EU awards. The restoration of the Liszt Ferenc Academy of Music and the Museum of Fine Arts received Europa Nostra prizes in the recent past. Several projects received European Heritage Labels, with the Living Heritage of the city of Szentendre being the latest in 2019.
Attention is given to the built heritage of Hungarians living beyond the border. Teleki László Foundation, a private non-profit organisation, with roots in the 1980s, gets regular support from the National Cooperation Fund (Nemzeti Együttműködés Alap) of the government for related projects. The key institution in this remit is the Foundation for the Preservation of the Central European Built Heritage – Közép-európai Épített Örökség Megőrző Alapítvány. At its establishment in 2020, the government endowed it with shares of state owned businesses and several buildings. This includes a magnificent 19th century hotel on the main square of Satu Mare in Romania.
Preventive archaeological explorations occurring as part of investment projects offered unprecedented opportunities for excavations and subsequent activities especially at the time of a massive programme of motorway construction. Such exercises also produced additional revenues for museums. In 2011, however, conditions took a u-turn, benefiting investors in terms of financial burden and deadlines, which in 2012 were crowned by switching primary responsibility for the entire scope of built heritage, including archaeology, from the Minister of Culture to that of the interior, and later to the Prime Minister’s Office. Since 2018, this domain is overseen by the Department of Archaeology of the Deputy State Secretariat for Architecture, Construction and Heritage of the Prime Minister’s Office.
EU funds have facilitated the reconstruction of the Hungarian Museum of Natural History (Természettudományi Múzeum). The announcement therefore that the National University of Public Service would be moved to the building caused surprise and concern. The first phase of the adaptation to the new function has taken place – based on additional EU financial support – and now the new university and the museum share the building. The longer-term solution is still up in the air.
Since 2019, with a new director, the Petőfi Literary Museum has become a power centre of Hungarian culture. After a strange sequence of steps, the gigantic Foundation for Hungarian Culture is a kind of annex to it, which has nothing to do with museum policies.
A recent development is the appointment of another cultural policy strongman László L. Simon as General Director of the National Museum in 2021, whose declared mission is to carry out a fusion between the National Museum and the Natural History Museum, and possibly the Museum of Applied Arts.
Entrance to state museums was free for a four-year period, but fees were re-introduced in 2008 after an unsuccessful test period. The museum profession has stated that the loss of box office revenue is not sufficiently compensated by the government.
A Hungarian speciality is the pyramid of “values”, regulated by a special law since 2012. Towns and villages are encouraged to set up their Committees of Values which select and administer their Repositories of Values. These include buildings, objects, foods, customs, phenomena etc. on a very broad scale. Committees on county level choose items to add to the regional repositories. Parallel to this, values important for the Hungarian people abroad are also collected by seven committees in the neighbouring countries. The top level is the 21-strong national Hungarikum Committee that decides on the repository of Hungarikums. Currently, in September 2021 the list includes 58 items, with strong a contingent of intangible cultural heritage. The collection includes the Hungarian items on the Unesco lists of World Heritage and Intangible Heritage.