Before 2016, the conservation and management of Dutch cultural heritage was governed by various regulations and laws. Different definitions, procedures and safeguards resulted in a sectoral fragmentation of heritage legislation. To solve this, the Heritage Act (Erfgoedwet) was installed in July 2016. The act replaced six laws and regulations in the field of cultural heritage, including the Monuments and Historic Buildings Act (1988) and the Cultural Heritage Preservation Act (1984). The Heritage Act describes what cultural heritage is, how the Netherlands deals with movable cultural heritage, who is responsible for what and how the Netherlands monitors this. More specifically, the act provides rules regarding the following: conservation and registration of public collections; financial relations with state-financed museums; assessing objects from public collections; protection of public monuments and archaeology; restitution of looted art; finance and governance; and cultural heritage inspection.
The Cultural Heritage Agency is responsible for the preservation and maintenance of cultural heritage in the Netherlands. The agency, which is part of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, awards grants for monuments, historic buildings, archaeology and cultural landscapes, and implements the Heritage Act. The Cultural Heritage Agency is also a centre of expertise concerning the conservation and registration of museum collections. It manages part of the art collection of the government and supports the collection managers with knowledge, research and advice. The Cultural Heritage Agency also takes care of the online Collection Netherlands (Collectie Nederland) and is responsible for the Heritage Monitor, which presents facts and figures about cultural heritage in the Netherlands.
In 2018, the current Minister of Education, Culture and Science, Ingrid van Engelshoven, announced the heritage sector will receive EUR 325 million: “It is time for the next step by giving new life to buildings, making monuments sustainable and increasing the accessibility of historical sights. With these extra investments, we can pass our monuments on to future generations.” The corresponding policy focuses on conservation and repurposing, the living environment and the connecting force of heritage.
On top of the increased budget for monuments, Minister Van Engelshoven also announced that the Dutch government will invest an additional EUR 34 million in monuments throughout the country, such as the Dom Church in Utrecht (EUR 2.1 million), the Monastery of St. Anna in Venray (EUR 3.5 million) and the Church of Our Lady in Breda (EUR 4.9 million).
In the policy letter Heritage Counts (Erfgoed telt), Van Engelshoven explains her plans for the heritage sector for the period 2018-2021. Some important measures are:
- The tax deduction for maintenance of national monument buildings is converted into a subsidy scheme per January 1st, 2019. As a result, EUR 57 million remains structurally available for monumental maintenance.
- EUR 95 million will be made available for the restoration, repurposing and sustainability of monuments.
- The visibility and accessibility of historical places should be enlarged. A working programme regarding the digital accessibility of heritage, archives and collections was published in February 2019 by the governmental Information and Heritage Inspectorate (Werkprogramma 2019-2020: Overheidsinformatie en erfgoed beschikbaar voor iedereen). (More than five million artworks, monuments and objects are already digitally accessible via Collection Netherlands (Collectie Nederland). For more on heritage and digitisation, see chapter 2.4.)
- EUR 31 million will be made available for conservation and investigation regarding archaeological monuments, for example maritime archaeology.
- EUR 13 million will be made available to support municipalities in developing a plan for the future of monumental churches.
- To maintain the knowledge and skills regarding heritage, EUR 3.8 million will be made available for the training of professionals and the development of guidelines.
On February 21st, 2019, Minister Van Engelshoven signed the Heritage Deal (Erfgoeddeal). The deal is a partnership between different Ministries, municipalities, provinces and governmental organisations related to monuments, forestry, real estate and landscape. In order to execute the agreements in the deal, Van Engelshoven contributes EUR 20 million and this will be doubled by municipalities and provinces to a total of approximately EUR 40 million. The agreements focus on three main themes: climate adaptation; energy transition and sustainability; and urban growth and contraction.