French Cultural Heritage Governance and Policy

France has a remarkably rich, diverse and attractive cultural heritage which plays a significant economic role and greatly contributes to the worldwide influence of French culture.

The Ministry of Culture is responsible for defining and implementing the State’s policy on the protection, preservation, restoration and transmission of cultural heritage. These missions are conducted through the Regional Directorates of Cultural Affairs (DRAC) and the Territorial Architectural and Heritage services (STAP). Within the Ministry of Culture, the General Directorate for Heritage and Architecture plays a crucial role in managing public policies in various cultural heritage fields: architecture, archives, intangible cultural heritage, museums, monuments, sites, and archaeology.

If you are interested in reading more about France’s cultural heritage policy, institutional and legal frameworks, please consult France’s profile in the Herein System.

French Cultural Heritage Research

In close cooperation with the General Secretariat and with all the services of the General Directorate for Heritage and Architecture, the DIRI (Délégation de l’inspection, de la recherche et de l’innovation) designs master plans for research in cultural heritage fields, defines the transversal research objectives, implements the research policy and evaluates the results. It is specifically responsible for leading actions on ethnological heritage and oversees the implementation of UNESCO Convention for the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage (ICH).

It also act as the link with other ministries and institutions such as the Ministry of Higher Education, Research and Innovation (Ministère de l’Enseignement supérieur, de la Recherche et de l’Innovation, or MESRI), the French National Research Agency (Agence Nationale de la Recherche or ANR); the High Council for Evaluation of Research and Higher Education (Haut Conseil de l’évaluation de la recherche et de l’enseignement supérieur) or the National Centre for Scientific Research (Centre national de la recherche scientifique, or CNRS).

The DIRI coordinates the driving forces of higher education and research around large-scale scientific projects and infrastructures at a time when France’s research landscape is undergoing profound changes in particular in the context of the “investments for the future” programmes (programmes d’investissements d’avenir). For instance, these programmes led to the creation of the Foundation for Cultural Heritage Sciences, which currently runs, amongst other projects, three state-funded projects, Patrima, Patrimex and Espadon.

Funding Sources

The State funds French public research (running, investments and personnel) through the Ministry for Higher Education, and Research and Innovation (28,7 billion euros in 2020). This budget covers the running costs of public research and incentive research based on calls for projects, particularly through the ANR. Regarding the Ministry of Culture, the Transmission of Knowledge and Democratization of Culture program, which has merged with the Cultural Research and Scientific Culture programme, reaches € 590 million in the 2021 budget.

French Cultural Heritage Research Centres and Institutions

The multidisciplinary and holistic approach to heritage research requires the participation of different ministries’ departments in collaboration with various professions (researchers, curators, archaeologists, architects, restorers) and organisations. Hereunder is a non-exhaustive list on the French research landscape of cultural heritage landscape:

Centre for Research on Conservation (Centre de recherche sur la conservation – CRC)

Centre for Research and Restauration of the Museums of France (Centre de Recherche et de Restauration des Musées de France – C2RMF)

Historical Monument Research Laboratory (Laboratoire de Recherche des Monuments Historiques)

Interdisciplinary Centre for the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Heritage (Centre interdisciplinaire de Conservation et Restauration du Patrimoine – CICRP)

National Prehistory Centre (Centre national de la Préhistoire – CNP)

Research and Conservation Workshop (Atelier de Recherche et de Conservation)

MAP Laboratory

André Chastel Centre

IPANEMA Laboratory

Labex The past in the present

Foundation for Cultural Heritage Sciences (Fondation des Sciences du Patrimoine)

Observatoire des patrimoines de Sorbonne université

Labex Matisse

LabEx LaScArBx

Labex IMU

Labex Urban Futures

Labex AECC

Carbon Dating Laboratory (Laboratoire de Mesure du carbone 14 – LMC14)

Department of Underwater and Submarine Archaeological Research (Direction des recherches archéologiques subaquatiques et sous-marines – DRASSM)

European Institute for the Non-Destructive Photon-based Analysis of Ancient Materials (Synchrotron Soleil / projet IPANEMA)

National Library of France (Bibliothèque nationale de France)

Institut national d’histoire de l’art

The Louvre Museum