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Cultural Heritage

Heritage protection levels

Law 16/1985, dated 25 June, on Spanish Historical Heritage, Titles V, VI and VII, includes a series of categories based on which specific protection regulations are developed.

  • Archaeological Heritage
    Art. 40 of the Historical Heritage Act indicates that this heritage includes personal property or real estate assets that may be studied using archaeological methods, whether or not extracted and both on the surface or underground, within national marine waters or on the continental shelf. This Heritage likewise includes geological and paleontological elements related to the history of humanity and its origins and predecessors.
    Finally, the Act clearly establishes that actions at archaeological sites may include either excavations or explorations, and they must be duly authorised by the competent Administration, and that all assets discovered belong in the public domain; that is, their commercialisation is strictly prohibited.
  • Ethnographical Heritage
    This section includes knowledge and activities that are or have been a significant expression of the traditional culture of the Spanish people in their material, social or spiritual facets. Furthermore, it establishes special protection for those that are in danger of disappearing, indicating, in this case, that the competent Administration shall adopt measures leading to the scientific study and documentation of such personal property, real estate or intangible assets.
  • Inventory of Property Assets of the Catholic Church
    It is essential to mention the legal protection afforded to the Property Assets of the Catholic Church, as these make up the vast majority of the Spanish Historical Heritage assets held privately.
    Article 28 of the Historical Heritage Act establishes that "the property assets declared of cultural interest and included in the General Inventory that are held by religious institutions may not be transferred to private individuals nor to mercantile entities." Furthermore, Transitory Provision Five established a legislative mandate to the competent Public Administrations, which in this case are the Autonomous Regions, to prepare the Inventory of Property Assets of the Catholic Church. These annual cataloguing campaigns have been financed since 1986 through an agreement between the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport and the Autonomous Regions. In a second phase, the Autonomous Regions must select which assets to protect legally and in which category: Register of Assets of Cultural Interest or General Inventory of Personal Property.
  • Documentary Heritage
    A document is any natural or conventional language expression and any other graphic expression, whether sound or image, held on any type of material medium, including computer media. The Historical Heritage Act establishes the production of the Documentary Heritage Census, which is drawn up through co-operation agreements between the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport and the Autonomous Regions, and include:
    • Documents produced, conserved or held by any public body or entity, as well as those related to the management of these services.
    • Documents over forty years old that were produced, conserved or held by entities and associations of a political, syndical or religious nature and by private cultural or educational entities, foundations or associations.
    • Documents over a hundred years old that were produced, conserved or held by private entities or individuals.
  • Bibliographical Heritage
    According to article 50 of the Historical Heritage Act, the following belong to this Heritage:
    • Public libraries and bibliographical collections and literary, historical, scientific or artistic works, as a single unit or a series, hand-written or printed, of which there is no record of the existence of at least three copies in public libraries or services.
    • Literary, scientific or artistic works, as a single unit or a series, hand-written or printed, of which there is no record of the existence of at least three copies in public libraries or services.
    • Copies of cinematographic film products, audio-visual materials or similar, whatever the material medium, of which at least three copies are known to exist in the public services or one in the case of cinematographic films.

    In this case, a Bibliographical Heritage Collective Catalogue must be produced, as with the Documentary Heritage, through Co-operation Agreements between the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport and the Autonomous Regions.

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