National heritage policy
Cultural heritage protection and management in Sweden aims to preserve and manage sites of historical, architectural or archaeological significance and to empower cultural heritage as a force in the evolution of a democratic, sustainable society. Cultural heritage management is intended to promote:
- a sustainable society with a great diversity of cultural heritage sites which are to be preserved, used and developed,
- people’s participation in cultural heritage management and their potential to understand and take responsibility for the cultural heritage,
- an inclusive society with the cultural heritage as a shared source of knowledge, education and experiences,
- a landscape management perspective in which cultural heritage is utilized in the development of society.
Work with the cultural heritage and traces of the past involves important questions about the future. The cultural heritage is a versatile resource in the development of society, of great significance for matters such as public health, outdoor life and growth in the whole country.
Public cultural heritage management is regulated mainly by the Historic Environment Act, which is the most fundamental legislation when it comes to ancient monuments, historic buildings, churches and the export of cultural objects. Regulations concerning cultural heritage can also be found in several other laws, including the Environmental Code, the Planning and Building Act and the Forestry Act.
Roles and responsibilities
The Swedish National Heritage Board, under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture, serves as Sweden’s central administrative agency in the area of cultural heritage and the historic environment. Its assignment includes ensuring that the cultural value of buildings and landscapes is preserved and utilized, and watching over the interests of the cultural heritage in community planning and construction.
The National Heritage Board works for a sustainable society with the goal of a diverse cultural heritage which is to be preserved, used and developed in a way that makes good use of the cultural values in buildings and landscape. The National Heritage Board looks after the interests of the cultural heritage in community planning and construction, supervises, monitors and supports regional cultural heritage management, and works to increase knowledge based on research and co-operation with other parties such as universities and colleges. Other central governmental authorities play an important part: the Environmental Protection Agency, the Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management, the National Board of Housing, Building and Planning, the National Board of Agriculture, the Swedish Forestry Agency, the Swedish Transport Administration and the National Property Board, the last of which, for example, manages state-owned listed historic buildings. The Samí Parliament has co-ordinating responsibility for Samí affairs in Sweden.
The majority of decisions concerning the local and regional level pursuant to the Historic Environment Act are made by the County Administrative Boards, which are state authorities with regional responsibility for matters including cultural heritage management. These 21 boards are answerable to the Ministry of Finance and receive their assignments from the government.
Through the government allocation for cultural heritage management, the National Heritage Board distributes about 26 million euro annually, chiefly to Sweden’s County Administrative Boards, to cover the cost of measures connected with cultural heritage. These funds are limited in comparison to the needs, but they are of great value for successful cultural heritage work. The government allocation for cultural heritage management is mainly used for information and for the maintenance of valuable historic buildings, landscapes and antiquities. In addition to this, it is used to establish culture reserves, to accumulate knowledge on which to base decisions, and to finance some archaeological measures. The County Administrative Boards can grant money for the preservation of particularly valuable archaeological sites and monuments, buildings and cultural landscapes. The cultural heritage units within these boards are responsible for inspections and decide in cases concerning ancient remains, churches and historic buildings in accordance with the Historic Environment Act.
The Boards also have to be consulted regarding aspects of the municipalities’ planning and building. In each Swedish county there is at least one regional museum which receives public grants from the region and the state to pursue work with cultural heritage management in various ways. Since 2000 the Church of Sweden has no longer been a state church, but receives 46 million euro in state grants each year to cover costs for measures concerning preservation of the 3,700 or so listed churches.
At the local level, Sweden has 290 autonomous municipalities. The municipalities are legally responsible for planning and building matters and thus have great influence through the municipal planning of the cultural heritage. Consideration for cultural heritage is one aspect of the municipal planning process which takes place in accordance with the Planning and Building Act, whereas notably Areas of National Interest for cultural heritage should be protected. Many municipalities also have municipal museums that work with cultural heritage management.
Historic Environment Act (SFS 1988:950)
Environmental Code (SFS 1998:808)
Planning and Building Act (SFS 2010:900)
Forestry Act (SFS 1979:429)