In 2022, the Lithuanian Register of Cultural Property contained information about 25 892 immovable cultural heritage objects (individual and complex objects and cultural heritage sites) and about 8 454 movable cultural properties. The register is constantly updated and revised. More than 8 000 cultural heritage objects are on the list of state protected cultural heritage objects approved by the Minister of Culture, and 2 422 cultural heritage objects are declared national cultural heritage objects by the Government of the Republic of Lithuania.
Table 7: Number of state protected cultural heritage units and monuments of cultural heritage in 2017–2021
|State protected cultural heritage (units)||8 139||8 189||8 210||8 221||8 175|
|Monuments of cultural heritage||2 297||2 298||2 299||2 300||2 422|
Source: Statistics Lithuania
According to the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania, the State is responsible for the protection of Lithuania’s monuments of history and art as well as other cultural monuments and property. The purpose of protecting cultural heritage in the Republic of Lithuania is its preservation and transfer to future generations.
Legal acts of the Republic of Lithuania distinguish between immovable and movable cultural heritage. The protection of immovable cultural heritage is guaranteed by the Law on Protection of Immovable Cultural Heritage (1994). This law defines cultural heritage as “the cultural property inherited, taken over, created and transmitted from generation to generation and significant from ethnic, historical, aesthetical or scientific point of view”.
The legal act regulating the protection of movable cultural property is the Law on Protection of Movable Cultural Property (1996). Movable cultural property is defined in this Law as “material creations and other objects which are movable based on their designation and nature, hold cultural value and are listed in the State inventories of movable cultural property”. Immovable and movable cultural property is inscribed in the State Register of Cultural Property.
The heritage policy in Lithuania is shaped and implemented by the Ministry of Culture, the Department of Cultural Heritage, the National Commission for Cultural Heritage, and municipalities. The Ministry of Culture organises state administration for protection of movable and immovable cultural heritage and is in charge thereof. The Department of Cultural Heritage under the Ministry of Culture performs the functions of the protection of immovable cultural heritage and movable cultural properties assigned to it by laws and other legal acts; these functions include maintenance and management of cultural properties, maintenance of accounting and control of cultural heritage, as well as presentation of cultural heritage to society. The Department also contributes to the formation and implementation of national policies in the area of protection of cultural heritage. The Department is a founder of the state-funded institution the Centre of Cultural Heritage, which collects and accumulates information on cultural heritage as well as conducts historical and physical research. Another state institution, the Cultural Infrastructure Centre acts as a commissioner of the reconstruction and modernisation works needed for the cultural objects and other institutions under the Ministry of Culture.
The National Commission for Cultural Heritage is the expert and adviser to the Parliament, the President of the Republic, and the Government regarding national policy issues on the protection of immovable cultural heritage. The activities of the Heritage Commission are regulated by the Law of the National Commission for Cultural Heritage (2004). The main mission of the Heritage Commission is to participate in the formation of a policy and strategy for the protection of cultural heritage, to inform the Parliament of the Republic of Lithuania, the President and the Government about the problems regarding heritage protection, and to prepare draft legal acts related to heritage protection.
Despite this extensive institutional system for the protection and maintenance of heritage, heritage policy is the most challenging area of cultural policy in Lithuania due to insufficient state funding and frequent changes in legislation. For example, between 1997 and 2022, a total of 24 editions of the Law on the Protection of Immovable Cultural Heritage were drafted. Such frequent changes to the Law make the implementation of this Law as well as its alignment with other laws very complicated. Funding for the Heritage Maintenance Programme performed by the Department of Cultural Heritage has decreased in recent years, although state budget revenues have increased. According to the National Commission of Cultural Heritage, in 2021, resources needed for reimbursement of the costs of cultural heritage maintenance works to the managers were 4-5 times higher than the allocated state appropriations for the Heritage Maintenance Programme.
Municipalities of the Republic of Lithuania also take part in heritage policy. They have heritage protection divisions that perform certain functions for the protection of immovable cultural heritage provided for by law; they also issue the sets of conditions for designing protected structures and structures in the territories of protected objects as well as at protected sites, organise the approval of design documentation for the aforementioned structures as well as grant permits to build, reconstruct, repair or demolish the aforementioned structures in accordance with the procedure laid down by the legal acts of the Republic of Lithuania. In 2020, the National Commission for Cultural Heritage performed an Analysis of the Activities of Municipalities in the Field of Cultural Heritage Protection in 2020. According to the analysis, there is a consistent trend of increasing funding for cultural heritage in municipalities. It has been observed for many years and continued in 2020, as half of the municipalities allocated more funds for heritage than in previous years. Taken as a whole, the overall growth rates of the funds allocated to heritage by municipalities far exceed the growth rate of funding allocated by the Department of Cultural Heritage.
Figure 4. Funds allocated by the Department of Cultural Heritage and by the municipalities for the maintenance of heritage in 1997 – 2020
In 2019, the Lithuanian Ministry of Culture commissioned a study on the cultural heritage protection processes and compatibility of heritage protection laws. The report of the study presents an analysis of laws regulating the protection of cultural heritage and the provision of services, analysis of international documents related to the protection of cultural heritage as well as an analysis of the functions of the institutions involved in the cultural heritage administration process. The findings of the study reveal the inconsistency between the concepts used in the main Lithuanian heritage protection Laws and duplications of functions performed by the Department of Cultural Heritage, municipalities, and Directorates of Protected Areas. Thus, as a conclusion, the study recommends a range of legislative changes and the overall revision of the model of Lithuanian cultural heritage protection.
The recommendations of the study were included in the Policy Concept for the Preservation and Promotion of Cultural Heritage and its Action Plan, approved by the Lithuanian Government in 2020. The concept declares that in order to solve systemic problems of administration of tangible and intangible cultural heritage protection, it is necessary to create an effective, integrated and long-term policy action plan for cultural heritage conservation and promotion, improve cultural heritage protection management, ensure research, dissemination, systematization and preservation of cultural heritage, implement the sustainable development goals in the field of cultural heritage, train cultural heritage protection specialists and researchers, ensure dialogue with communities and investors, involve all social group in decisions on the relevancy of cultural heritage, develop the cultural education of the population, and strengthen financial and non-financial incentives for heritage managers.
In the last decade, the most discussed issue in the field of heritage policy is the legacy of the Soviet era. The main opposing sides in these discussions are members of the academic community and representatives of various political and patriotic NGOs. From the point of view of the latter, the Soviet legacy is a glorification of that era and should therefore be removed from the public spaces of Lithuanian towns and cities. The academic community, meanwhile, argues that heritage protection policy should be guided by the principle of the irreversibility of the past and protect the heritage as it is, and not as we would like it to be; cultural heritage must not serve political or ideological interests (see also the chapter 2.9).
The Lithuanian museum infrastructure consists of national, state, municipal, departmental and private or non-state-owned museums. According to the data of the Ministry of Culture, in 2021, there were 96 public museums in Lithuania that submitted reports to the Ministry of Culture: 4 national, 16 state, 54 municipal, and 23 departmental. According to the data of Statistics Lithuania, in 2020, all these museums together stored 7 569 200 exhibits.
Table 8: Number of exhibits stored in museums in 2020
|Type of museums||Number of exhibits|
|National museums||2 211 182|
|State museums||2 633 853|
|Municipal museums||2 069 704|
|Departmental museums||706 232|
During 2020, Lithuanian museums were visited by 2 837 798 visitors. Due to the quarantine and restrictions on visits, the number of visits almost halved compared to the previous year (5 588 766 visitors in 2019 and 5 026 217 in 2018).
Table 9: Number of museums visitors in 2016–2020
|Number of museums visitors (in thousands)||3 981||4 152||5 026||5 588||2 837|
|Average number of visitors per museum (in thousands)||38.7||41.5||50.3||52.2||26.8|
The policy of museums in Lithuania are shaped and implemented by the Ministry of Culture, the Council of Museums and the Lithuanian Council for Culture. According to the Law on Museums, the Ministry of Culture outlines the strategy of the activity of national and state museums, prepares programmes for the implementation of the strategy and submits them to the Government; prepares drafts of legal acts regulating the activity of museums and submits them to the Government for adoption; coordinates the activity of Lithuanian museums, their participation in cross-border museological programmes; checks how objects stored at museums are accounted for and protected; provides funds for the key programmes of museum activity, restoration and scientific research; appoints, through a public competition, and dismisses, the directors of national and state museums whose owner’s rights and obligations are implemented by the Ministry of Culture; appoints, through a public competition, and dismisses the deputy directors – chief curators – of national and state museums whose owner’s rights and obligations are implemented by the Ministry of Culture; arranges the professional development of museum curators and restorers; and at the order of the Minister of Culture compiles the list of paid services provided by museums within the competence of the Ministry of Culture. The Council of Museums acts as an expert and consultant on issues related to the formulation and implementation of museum policy. The Lithuanian Council for Culture provides funding for museums’ educational and other projects. In 2021, the Council allocated 1 604 291 EUR for 133 projects of museums. Lithuanian Museums also participate in the heritage digitisation programme. According to the Heritage Digitization Statistics database, in 2020, 1 140 695 EUR was allocated to museums for heritage digitization activities.