The Federal Council defined three central axes of action for federal cultural policy for the first time in its Culture Dispatch 2016-2020. Largely based on continuity in terms of content, these axes of action for the period 2021-2024 are maintained: cultural participation, social cohesion, creation and innovation.
Digitisation and the public cultural sector
The Culture Dispatch 2021-2024 places special emphasis on the ongoing process of digitisation shaping all areas of society. Planned measures related to public cultural institutions include:
- As in the past, Pro Helvetia will regularly review the impact of digitisation on funding instruments in all disciplines and adapt them where necessary, for example opening up funding instruments for artistic works that are not tied to physical carrier media. The “Culture and Business” programme, which has been established since 2016 with a funding focus on design and interactive media, will be integrated into the regular funding activities in order to, among other things, help realise the potential of young developers.
- The SNM, the museums of the FOC and the NL will increasingly address original digital cultural assets (“digitally born”) and further develop their 4D object and image database. The SNM will also complete the digital transformation in the areas of marketing and communication.
- In addition to the ongoing digitisation of significant works from its museums and collections, the FOC will examine whether it will award project grants for digitisation projects of museums and collections in the future.
More support for Museums of national importance
In 2017, the Federal Office of Culture (FOC) issued its first public call for proposals for operating grants to museums (decision by a jury of six experts). 35 museums submitted a funding application. From 2018, the FOC will support 13 museums (previously seven) with an annual operating grant totalling around CHF 5.9 million per year (one million more than in 2017). The selection of institutions was previously determined in the Culture Dispatch by the Federal Council and Parliament.
To be eligible for support, the museums must (1) be of national importance and quality, (2) have a unique collection of high cultural value that is significant for Switzerland’s cultural heritage, and (3) carry out innovative and broad-based outreach work. These 13 institutions will be supported with an operating grant for the years 2018 to 2022:
- Aargauer Kunsthaus, Aarau (AG)
- Alpine Museum of Switzerland, Bern (BE)
- Ballenberg, Open-Air Museum of Switzerland, Hofstetten b. Brienz (BE)
- HeK (House of Electronic Arts Basel), Münchenstein (BL)
- Laténium, Hauterive (NE)
- Musée Ariana (Musée suisse de la céramique et du verre), Genève (GE)
- Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne (VD)
- Museo d’arte della Svizzera italiana, Lugano (TI)
- Roman city of Augusta Raurica, Augst (BL)
- Stiftsbibliothek – Abbey Library of St. Gallen (SG)
- Technorama, Winterthur (ZH)
- Swiss Museum of Transport, Lucerne (LU)
- Vitromusée, Romont (FR)
Since its establishment, Switzerland has had a very strong tradition of federalism and subsidiarity. The recent discussion in Europe on civil society, the third sector, and the corresponding transfer of public responsibilities to private institutions has therefore not affected the country’s cultural landscape in any strong way. Decentralisation, the re-allocation of public responsibilities, and public-private-partnerships are thus well embodied.
Re-allocations in the public sector
Re-allocation of public responsibilities can be observed within the public sector. For example, following a local referendum, the responsibility for the Zurich Opera House was transferred from the City to the Canton of Zurich in 1994. Voluntary agreements were made with neighbouring cantons to provide resources for the upkeep of the Opera House. The transfer of financial support can occur in the form of a percentage of the fiscal income of the previous year or as a lump sum. Such inter-cantonal cultural expenditure agreements exist between cantons serving as cultural centres (opera houses, museums with a national outreach, such as the Swiss Museum of Transport in Lucerne) and neighbouring cantons. Under these agreements, cantons operating cultural facilities of supra-regional importance receive compensation. Such agreements are subject to direct negotiations between the respective cantons on the basis of the principles of national revenue sharing and financial compensation. Payments to be made by the Canton of Aargau, for instance, are calculated from the percentage of its visitors to the Schauspielhaus Zürich (Zurich Playhouse), the Zurich Opera House and Tonhalle, the Lucerne Theatre, the Lucerne Symphony Orchestra, and the Culture and the Lucerne Convention Centre. Large parts of the Swiss cultural landscape are marked by cooperation between public and private players. Re-allocation can mainly be observed between the public context and the intermediary sector. One example is the establishing of a National Centre of Competency for Photography by a private patron and the Federal Office of Culture in 2003.