Dutch Cultural Heritage Governance and Policy

Cultural heritage is present everywhere in our society. In our museums, historic city centres and rural areas. But also in the soil and under water, and as intangible heritage in our traditions, rituals and stories. It tells about where we come from, who we are and how we develop. The Dutch government ensures that this heritage is well cared for. The government does this by protecting cultural heritage, but also by enabling new developments, using the values of the historic objects and structures. Cultural heritage is at the heart of society, offering opportunities and connecting people.


The Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, municipalities, provinces and owners are jointly responsible for the care of our cultural heritage. The national government supports owners in this. For example with subsidies and loans for the almost 62,000 national monuments and over 1,500 protected archaeological sites. Municipalities are responsible for, among other things, granting permits, supervision, and enforcement in relation to national monuments. The Cultural Heritage Agency RCE provides an advising role in this. Provinces are responsible for restoration subsidies and the supervision of municipal monument tasks, among other things. This is stated in the Heritage Act and the Environment Act.

Cultural Heritage Agency

The Cultural Heritage Agency (RCE) is the Netherlands’ centre of expertise on heritage. It is an executive body of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. It operates in four domains: Archaeology, Landscape, Collections and Monuments.

The varied work of the Cultural Heritage Agency includes generating and disseminating knowledge, advising on developments and innovations in heritage care, implementing policy and legislation, administering guarantees and subsidies, and providing practical advice.

RCE’s strength lies in connecting three key elements: practical expertise, scientific knowledge and government policy. These elements are mutually reinforcing, whereby the RCE bases its practical advice on scientific knowledge, on its extensive experience and on the objectives of government policy. Conversely, the RCE’s practical expertise and knowledge make a significant contribution to the development of policy.

The Agency’s main activities are organised in programmes and projects. Some are practical in nature, while others are more concerned with knowledge development, like the National Archaeology Agenda (NOaA). This agenda contains 23 main themes and associated questions in archaeology research in the Netherlands.

Another example is the Heritage and sustainability programme, which concerns the positioning of cultural heritage in the global goals for sustainable development and dealing with climate change. The Knowledge of archeology programme develops next-level care for archeological sites. And the Participation programme stimulates more commitment of the general public in heritage care, including attention for the different perspectives within our society, following the principles of the Faro Convention. Another programme is Heritage in the 20th Century. The 20th century has produced a wide range of art objects, buildings and industrial properties. The cultural value of this recent heritage is not obvious to everyone. Aspects of how to manage and preserve it also remain unclear. The RCE frequently receives questions about these topics from heritage professionals, private individuals and policymakers. This programme is created to provide answers.

These and other programmes relate strongly to the policy document ‘Heritage Counts’ by the Minister of Education, Culture and Science.

Dutch Cultural Heritage Research Centres and Institutions

The RCE works closely with several research centres and institutions. In the RCE laboratory in Amsterdam, scientists work alongside their counterparts at the University of Amsterdam and the Rijksmuseum. They undertake research to ensure that objects of art and design, books, archival documents and other objects of historical value can be preserved for posterity.


The Netherlands Institute for Conservation+Art+Science+ (NICAS) brings together researchers from the disciplines of conservation, art history, physical science and computer science. NICAS wants to develop the connections between these disciplines in the form of a cohesive research programme, with a focus on the origin of the object and the life of the object through time. The ultimate goal is a more complete understanding, an enriched presentation and optimal preservation of cultural heritage.


The Dutch Research Council (NWO) is one of the most important science funding bodies in the Netherlands and realises quality and innovation in science. NWO invests in curiosity-driven research, research related to societal challenges and research infrastructure.

NWO facilitates curiosity-driven disciplinary, interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary research. In this role, NWO focuses on all scientific disciplines and on the entire knowledge chain with an emphasis on fundamental research. NWO connects researchers from various disciplines and across the entire knowledge chain and brings researchers and societal partners together. NWO encourages national and international collaboration in the field of cultural heritage via among other the JPI Cultural Heritage programme (JPI CH) and the Dutch Research Agenda (NWA).

NWO funds the personnel and material cost for scientific research and knowledge exchange and impact activities of Dutch universities and public research institutes. NWO invites partners from industry, the government and societal organisations to contribute with their own knowledge agendas and questions to the programming, realisation and co-funding of research.