Recent debate on cultural heritage has broadened the current heritage concept. Together with the cultural monument protection branch, libraries, archives, museums and intangible cultural heritage, cultural heritage is now recognised as an important resource for the development of the knowledge society and for cultural tourism. Apart from that, the Ministry of Culture supervises the digitalisation projects and the implementation of programmes and conventions of the UNESCO.
There are two state authorities implementing cultural policy in these fields: the National Cultural Heritage Administration (responsible for the protection of cultural heritage) and the Latvian National Centre for Culture (implements national cultural policies in the field of intangible cultural heritage and its associated fields of amateur arts, and in culture education).
Because of structural reform, the State Authority on Museums has been integrated into the structure of the Ministry of Culture. The mission of the Centre of Culture Information Systems is to develop IT tools in order to safeguard and distribute the cultural heritage of archives, libraries and museums. The Centre is responsible for digitalisation projects in cultural heritage institutions, many of them implemented with the assistance of the EU Structural Funds.
Municipalities are directly responsible for funding and administering municipal museums, cultural heritage objects and intangible heritage, notably folk art.
The museum sector in Latvia consists of state, municipal, autonomous, and private museums that are regulated by the Law of Museums. It is a decentralised system. A state founded museum can be supervised by the Ministry of Culture or by another ministry depending on the profile of the museum. Municipal museums are founded and managed by municipalities. Autonomous museums are founded and managed by commercial enterprises or by a derived legal person governed by public law (e.g. universities). Only those private museums that are accredited by the state are addressed in the state strategy for the museum sector. There is a significant number of non-accredited private museums in Latvia, but their operations are not specifically regulated.
Private operators are involved in the field mainly as owners of cultural heritage objects and private museums.
As part of The Cultural Policy Guidelines 2014-2020 “Creative Latvia” there is the Development Strategy for Digital Cultural Heritage; Museum Strategy; Safeguarding and Development Strategy for Intangible Cultural Heritage; Strategy for Protection of Cultural Monuments 2015-2020; and Programme “Heritage – 2018”.
The Ministry of Culture’s budget for heritage protection increased significantly until 2009. A special programme Heritage 2018 was approved and is being implemented since 2006. The aim of the programme is to restore and modernise all of the over 100 architecture heritage objects in state property up to the 100th anniversary of the Republic of Latvia: the first phase was 2006 – 2009, when 25 objects were restored (14 in Riga and 11 in the regions). However, in 2009, due to the economic crisis, the funding for the implementation of the programme was reduced. In the recent years, the situation has improved. For example, the new Museum of Art “Riga Bourse” was reopened in 2011, the main building of Latvian National Museum of Art was opened in 2016, the reconstruction of Rundale Palace was completed in 2014 mainly supported by private donations. Several art nouveaux and wooden architecture buildings have been reconstructed with support of the European Economic Area Financial Mechanism during the period of 2009-2014.
There are also a few special heritage protection and development programmes regularly supported by the Culture Capital Foundation. Another important financial source for development of the cultural heritage is the EU Structural Funds. Significant financial resources have been invested in digitalisation projects (see 2.4.).
In the field of intangible cultural heritage, an important player is UNESCO and the UNESCO National Commission. In 2008, the Baltic Song and Dance celebrations were inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. In 2009, the Suiti cultural space was included in the UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding.
In recent years, there are two popular annual events that make tangible and intangible cultural heritage accessible to everybody: during the European Heritage Days Latvian historic and cultural sites are opened to the public, while the project “Find Your Master Craftsman” (that takes place in the framework of European Artistic Crafts Days) encourages people to learn traditional crafts.
See Research report ‘The Survey of Inhabitants of Baltic Countries on the Song and Dance Celebration’; Research Report ‘Relations between museums and society’: Summary in English.
See also chapter 4.2.2. about legislation.