Safeguarding and documentation measures for intangible cultural heritage have been carried out for over a century in Norway. When it ratified UNESCO’s 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2007, the government decided to closely associate the Convention’s implementation with that of the Council of Europe’s 1994 Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and the International Labour Organization’s 1989 Convention concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries. This was done with specific reference to the Sámi indigenous people and Norway’s five national minorities – the Kven, Forest Finns, Jews, Roma and Romani minorities.
The two main competent bodies for safeguarding intangible cultural heritage in Norway are the Arts Council Norway and for Sámi elements, the Sámi Parliament of Norway, which has administrative competency. Other main actors in the documentation, safeguarding and practice of the State’s intangible cultural heritage are museums, archives, educational institutions, voluntary and non-governmental organisations – including UNESCO-accredited NGOs – and individual practitioners. Most of these institutions and organisations receive public funding from state, regional or municipal authorities in the form of operating grants or individual project grants. Furthermore, museums funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Culture and Arts Council Norway are now required to report work and activities related to intangible cultural heritage.
Norway has three UNESCO-accredited NGOs, which play an active role in all aspects of the Convention’s implementation. It also has a large and vibrant voluntary sector. Cooperation and information exchange between the Arts Council, NGOs, practitioners and other stakeholders have been ongoing with further participation encouraged. The draft online version of this report, for example, has been reviewed by NGOs and practitioners.
Several museums and other organisations are involved in training on various aspects of management of intangible cultural heritage and receive government funding, including 10 higher education institutions, such as the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Sør-Trøndelag University College and the International Centre for Reindeer Husbandry. In recent years, a Nordic capacity-building trainers’ course has been held and workshops organised for members of indigenous and minority communities.
Documentation institutions include most museums and archives, notably the Sámi Archives and the Tromsø University Museum, and many libraries, cultural institutions, associations and other organisations active in the domain of the Convention. The majority of these institutions receive public funding from national, regional or local authorities. In addition to these, are two of Norway’s UNESCO-accredited NGOs – the Norwegian Centre for Traditional Music and Dance and the Norwegian Crafts Institute.
Currently, Norway has no single, national inventory of intangible cultural heritage but the Arts Council is exploring various ordering principles and technical approaches for such an inventory if it is developed in the future. A number of existing inventories established by different bodies and for various aspects of intangible cultural heritage are already in place, broadly categorised as follows: inventories established and maintained by UNESCO-accredited NGOs; music and sound archives (Norwegian State Broadcasting Corporation regional traditional music archives); folk tradition and ethnological research archives (such as folk costume, music, folklore) and publicly accessible and in some cases, interactive, national digital databases (various ordering principles and criteria) of stories, museum collections, archival catalogues and metadata, images and sound.
An important aspect of safeguarding measures is the central coordinating role of the Arts Council Norway and availability of public funding, at different administrative levels, for related activities conducted by a variety of actors. For instance, an annual block grant is provided to the Sámi Parliament for cultural initiatives and support for Valdresmusea museums’ musical instruments workshop. Practitioner groups and NGOs play a major role in organising activities related to intangible cultural heritage and safeguarding initiatives, such as forums for exchanging resources and knowledge of traditional textiles and costumes; funding; organising music and dance festivals and other events; educational activities; courses in various aspects of traditional and popular culture (including vocational courses in weaving and traditional costumes) and craft courses and summer camps for children and young people. With regard to Sámi indigenous heritage, funding is available from both the Sámi Parliament and the Arts Council. Initiatives include an annual international indigenous festival; adult education courses in Sámi language; crafts and other subjects and a project to register, document and safeguard Sámi traditional knowledge, especially concerning nature and natural resources. With support from the Sámi Parliament, duodji practitioners run an organisation geared towards not only safeguarding Sámi crafts but also improving the social and economic conditions of practitioners and promoting economic development on the basis of traditional craftsmanship. Several initiatives have also been launched for safeguarding the heritage of national minorities, for example, establishment and support of a national centre for Kven language and culture and the Multicultural Knowledge and Resource Centre in Hedmark County, which documents and disseminates tangible and intangible cultural heritage associated with cultural minorities in the county, such as the Forest Finns, Romani and South Sámi, as well as immigrant groups. Further initiatives also exist for Romani language and culture.
Various schemes exist for educational programmes related to intangible cultural heritage. These consist of a pyramid structure, with the Arts Council as overall coordinator operating county-level arts and culture departments, at regional level and with individual programmes at municipal level. There are 415 municipalities, which are members of the Norwegian Council of Culture Schools. Municipal music and culture schools have been active since the 1970s, some of which have diversified to offer other intangible cultural heritage related subjects, including crafts. The Cultural Rucksack is a national lottery funded scheme to introduce all pupils from 6 to 19 years-of-age to arts and culture, including intangible cultural heritage covering performing arts, storytelling and Sámi joik and duodji traditions. A vocational school has been set up with State funding and cooperation from various agencies and county-level administration bodies for craftspeople, who specialise in traditional building construction and restoration methods, to continue their education. In addition, museums provide an important forum for professionals and practitioners to meet and exchange experiences and ideas. Certain elements enjoy specific safeguarding initiatives, with three national centres for documenting, safeguarding and disseminating traditional ship-building craft know-how and methods, as well as local traditional boat building and preservation associations that bring together boat builders, associations and enthusiasts. Traditional music has also been targeted for special measures with several county-level musicians appointed in a full-time, paid capacity to perform and teach and a county joiker appointed by Troms County to safeguard knowledge of Sámi joik traditions, particularly in schools.
In terms of bilateral, sub-regional, regional and international cooperation, Norway has provided substantial voluntary contributions to UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage Fund earmarked for capacity-building in some African, Latin American, Caribbean, Southeast Asian and Central Asian countries. It also cooperates bilaterally with the European Economic Area (EEA) in the framework of the EEA and Norway Grants. Norway Grants, which aims to reduce social and economic disparities in Europe, has several funded projects related to safeguarding intangible cultural heritage, for example, involving traditional music, dance, handicrafts and boat-building. Norway’s UNESCO-accredited NGOs have also been active in regional capacity-building, collaborating with museums and crafts institutions in several countries, institution-to-institution cooperation on traditional dance teaching methods and international cooperation with living craft traditions. In addition, Norway also provides funding to the Saami Council – an international NGO of Sámi organisations, which allocates grants for transnational Sámi arts and culture projects. A sub-regional conference has been organised by the Nordic Committee for Folk Music, with the Forest Finn Culture Museum, in cooperation with Finland and Sweden, having documented this culture since the 1980s.
Norway currently has no element inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity or the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding.