Albania’s Law on Cultural Heritage was amended in 2005/6 to include articles directly concerning safeguarding intangible cultural heritage, specifying the institutional tasks and actions required for its protection. The national body charged with safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage is the Cultural Heritage Department of the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Sports (MoCTS), whose seven experts include two responsible for living heritage. The National Committee for Intangible Heritage was established in 2006, chaired by the Minister of Culture and comprising nine members from different scientific institutions, covering all the main domains of ICH. The National Centre for Folkloric Activities (also under the Ministry) is responsible for the promotion and safeguarding of intangible values.
The Centre for Albanian Studies is the main ICH documentation institution and the Institute of Anthropology and Study of Arts also holds some relevant documentation. Various museums are also involved in documentation activities related to their own ethnographic collections, including the National Historic Museum (in Tirana), the Ethnographic Museum (in Berat), the Ethnographic Museum (in Shkoder), the Ethnographic Museum (in Kruje) and the Ethnographic Museum (in Vlore). Since 2011, the National Centre for the Inventory of Cultural Properties has been designing software for a database dedicated to ICH to store all the data various institutions have compiled so far.
The Law on Cultural Heritage requires all public institutions to draw up inventories of cultural heritage (including intangible heritage). In 2010, the National Committee for Intangible Heritage proclaimed the first seven elements on a National List of intangible cultural heritage. Work has begun by the Institute of Anthropology and Art Studies and the National Centre for Inventory of Cultural Properties to create computerized entries for these seven elements. Communities and bearers usually collaborate with the experts that collect the data in the field and are also involved in related research projects. The criteria used for inclusion of intangible cultural heritage in the inventory are the following: the element belongs to one or more categories of intangible heritage; the community has identified the element as part of its cultural heritage; the element contributes to the diversity of the ICH in the List; the element belongs to specific categories of people such as minorities, ethnic groups etc.; and the element is in danger of disappearance. Hence, the inventory takes into account the viability of intangible cultural heritage and the potential risk of its disappearance. The List is updated when a new intangible heritage element is inscribed; any revision of information on previously inscribed elements is decided case-by-case. If any changes occur to the element, the bearers are to notify the experts (ethnologists and others) who then forward this information to the Ministry; or the bearers may notify the Ministry directly. Until now, the Albanian National Music Council is the sole non-governmental organization that has successfully completed inventorying activities (on iso-polyphonic singing and its bearers).
The Ministry of Culture supports various awareness-raising activities such as workshops, exhibitions, classes, performances, production of audio-visual recordings and other related materials, along with local authorities. It also offers annual financial support of 8,000 Euros per year for organizing activities in the field of intangible cultural heritage. Half of this is administered by the National Centre for Folkloric Activities which holds yearly events throughout the country, including various festivals (e.g. National Folk Festival, Popular Music Festival, National Festival of Iso-polyphony etc.) The Centre also organizes traditional craft fairs, holds workshops and meetings of experts of intangible heritage, publishes books and leaflets etc. As for measures to promote the function of intangible cultural heritage in society, MoCTS has included a specific chapter on living heritage in the Culture Strategy and a dedicated Action Plan was drawn up, in collaboration with UNESCO and UNDP, on measures for safeguarding different intangible heritage domains.
Educational programmes are offered by different governmental bodies, associations (non-governmental organizations) and experts to promote traditional craftsmanship and arts in craft centres throughout the country, for instance by revitalizing traditional crafts and empowering the bearers to transmit it. Education on natural and cultural heritage is an integral part of the official school curriculum. At the local level, efforts are made to raise the awareness in the communities themselves and in the young generation. An important project in the area of capacity-building for safeguarding intangible cultural heritage, implemented by the Albanian National Music Council in collaboration with UNESCO and supported by the UNESCO/Japanese Funds-in-Trust, organized training courses for young people in ways of interpreting and singing iso-polyphony. Vodafone Albania has supported another project for training of young people in iso-polyphonic singing.
With regard to bilateral, sub-regional, regional and international cooperation, Albania collaborates with other States on ICH-related issues, especially those of the South-East Europe Sub-Region, and these are included in bilateral and/or multilateral agreements, mainly for the exchange of information, experts, and knowledge on various aspects of intangible cultural heritage. Experts and some NGO associations and bearers are also in contact on an individual basis with their counterparts in neighbouring countries, usually to cooperate on specific projects. The Institute of Anthropology and Study of Arts is currently implementing a research project entitled ‘Living in the border’, which aims to assess and inventory cross-border ways of living and intangible heritage elements. Traditional folklore festivals are held annually which gather together groups and cultural communities from outside Albania.
Albanian folk iso-polyphony was incorporated in the Representative List in 2008; subsequently, the Albanian National Music Council (a non-governmental organization) compiled the first publicly-accessible database of this element. Since its declaration as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity in 2005, a series of legal, institutional and other measures have also been taken, led by the Ministry, including an Action Plan for the Protection of Iso-polyphony approved by the Ministry of Culture of Albania (2005) and a Ministerial Order for the Protection of Iso-polyphony (2005). Its inclusion is a source of pride among the performers and has increased their sense of responsibility for its transmission and practice; moreover, it has increased the interest of other bearer communities as concerns their own intangible cultural heritage.