The historical monuments
A historic monument is a building (built or not built: park, garden, cave, etc.) or a movable object (furniture or building by destination) receiving a special legal status intended to protect it for its historical interest, artistic, architectural but also technical or scientific so that it is preserved, restored and enhanced.
This “historic monument” status is a recognition by the Nation of the heritage significance of a property. This protection implies a shared responsibility between owners and the national community for its conservation and transmission to future generations.
Since the 2000s, the legislative and regulatory regime for historic monuments has undergone profound changes.
Since 2009, the owner of a historic monument has been the owner of the work undertaken there. It is for this purpose to define the programmes for maintenance, restoration or modification operations, to choose a prime contractor (for buildings or organs) and the companies and restaurateurs who will be responsible for the interventions, to ensure the financing and to solicit the assistance of the State, the local authorities or other partners (sponsors and foundations, etc.).
This full responsibility of the owner is, however, accompanied by very precise rules for the authorization and implementation of works which are also the subject of scientific and technical control by the State by the departments responsible for historical monuments of the ministry of culture (Regional Cultural Affairs Directorates).
The Ministry of Culture is also directly responsible, through its decentralised services and public institutions, the maintenance and conservation of major historical monuments of the State such as cathedrals and national estates for which he is responsible.
A protection strategy
As regards the inscription or classification of historic monuments, one of the national priorities is the revision of old, sometimes partial or mixed, protections in order to reinforce the coherence of protection and to simplify, for the owner and services of the State, the management of the historical monument.
Thematic protection campaigns are implemented by regional cultural affairs directorates (regional conservations of historical monuments) such as the lighthouses of the coasts of France, the memory of the war of 1914-1918, the Atlantic Wall or the heritage of the 20th century, calling attention to certain components of heritage.
A conservation strategy
For a long time, a condition of buildings protected under historic monuments is published periodically on the basis of assessments carried out periodically by the departments responsible for historic monuments. Since 2007, it has been communicated to Parliament and since 2018, it has been posted online. Public or private owners are encouraged to scale up maintenance programmes, and regional directorates are invited to devote 15% of the total annual budget.
On average, the budget allocated by the State to the maintenance and restoration of historic monuments reaches nearly €300 million in payment credits, excluding major projects, such as the Grand Palais or the Château de Villers-Côterêts. Every year, between 6,000 and 7,000 works, outside public institutions, are carried out on historic monuments (buildings or movable objects). 10% of the operations concern movable objects, of which 2% are organs.
According to studies on the economic and social impact of heritage, the restoration and opening to the public of historic monuments represent hundreds of thousands of direct and indirect jobs, mainly local jobs spread across the national territory, jobs of very high competence.
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The policy in favour of historic monuments also includes numerous actions to enhance the physical and intangible elements of heritage. From the traditional guided tour to the “Historic Monuments Open Days” founded in 1984 and now “European Heritage Days”, from the first “sounds and lights” in the 1950s to volunteer sites, From the presence of artists and know-how holders in the places to immersive and virtual visits, the means of valorization have not ceased to renew themselves.
The opening and animation of historical monuments promote the general public’s appropriation of «national heritage». The development of heritage and its reuse contributes to local and social development and the tourism economy, to cultural identity and to the attractiveness of the territories and thus to the influence of France.