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The Swedish National Heritage Board – now an agency for museums

 The Swedish National Heritage Board has served as Sweden’s central administrative agency for cultural heritage and the historic environment since the 17th century. However, on 1 June 2017, the Government of Sweden widened the remit of the Heritage Board further to include coordination and promotion of development, innovation and cooperation in the museums field.

This new commission addresses museums all over the country, regardless of size, direction and authority, and aims to gather and transfer knowledge in order to share best practice and offer technical and methodological support. For the first time ever, heritage institutions within the museums, libraries and archives sector have the opportunity to merge their strategic development of collections, knowledge- and capacity building, approaches to storage and display, and outreach and engagement. The vision of the Heritage Board is to provide the opportunity for everyone, irrespective of background, to engage with the rich variety of heritage and explore the multitudes of histories that are shaping Sweden.

Lars Amréus, Director General of the Heritage Board says, ‘Swedish museums encompass a great diversity of topics and issues. There is an immense potential, knowledge and expertise here that can be channelled in a variety of ways in order to achieve greater impact on society.’

To many people, museums are gateways to accessing cultural heritage and participating in heritage work. Sweden’s museums play a pivotal role in the preservation, use and development of cultural heritage. There are around 2000 museums in Sweden – some of them are public agencies with more than 100 employees, whereas others are smaller, non-profit organisations. These museums have different preconditions, operational models and goals, which result in a variety of needs and demands.

Due to the heterogeneity of Swedish museums, audiences have the possibility to explore heritage in a myriad of ways. This rich flora of expressions also provides a broad knowledge of museum practice. To achieve impact, the Heritage Board needs to focus on issues and challenges that are particularly urgent or shared by a great number of museums. The role of the Heritage Board is not to duplicate the expertise and experience of museum staff but to support the museums in developing their capabilities further. Through ongoing dialogue and hearings with museums and museum networks, and through external analysis of political, social, economic and legal trends, the Heritage Board aims to gather and analyse information about the needs, ambitions and practical conditions of the museums. Moreover, inquiries and evaluations are carried out in order to map and analyse specific issues. The results of these investigations will form the basis of practical innovation and development.

In order to meet the demands of this wider remit, the Heritage Board adapted large parts of its operations in 2017 and 2018. This process included recruitment, restructuring of the organisation and remodelling of work procedures. A new strategy was introduced, including the ambition to become a world-leading player in the field of digitisation, digital preservation and digital transfer of cultural heritage. A new “Cultural Heritage Centre” was established as a testing ground for innovative, knowledge-based methods and technical solutions that are directly applicable in cultural heritage management. The development within the Cultural Heritage Centre emanates from collaboration with specific organisations or projects, however, the results – in the form of knowledge, methods or technical solutions – are disseminated on a wide scale so that a greater range of organisations and projects can benefit.

Through its widened remit, the Heritage Board will encourage an enhanced coordination and cooperation within the museums, libraries and archives sector, which will meet the demands of a modern society, characterised by increased diversity and flux. We hope that this development will be of interest to our partners throughout Europe and that it will foster opportunities for knowledge and skills sharing!

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