Czechia became a State Party in 2009. The Ministry of Culture (MoC), the main competent body, has designated the National Institute of Folk Culture (NIFC) to implement it, along with specialised units set up in a museum of each region. There is no specific institution for training in intangible cultural heritage management, but the NIFC offers some specialised seminars and training courses for leaders of ensembles, teachers and others. In addition to these bodies, documentation on intangible cultural heritage is also collected and held by state agencies, such as the National Institute of Folk Culture and the National Heritage Institute; various museums curate ethnographic collections and/or systematically document elements of intangible cultural heritage. Public access to these collections is facilitated through websites, presentation in exhibitions and workshops, libraries (including digital ones) and the digitisation of documents (e.g. for the ‘eSbírky’ Europeana project).
For inventorying intangible cultural heritage, there are two national lists: (1) the List of the Intangible Heritage of Traditional Folk Art (National List, since 2008) and (2) the Bearers of Folk Crafts and Traditions List (Bearers List, since 2001). Both are managed by the NIFC. Regional departments of NIFC also draw up lists of intangible cultural heritage at the regional level which act as indicative lists for future inscription on the National List. The National List is organised according to the five domains of the 2003 Convention and criteria for inscription include that the element is living and transmitted from generation to generation. Documentation on the elements inscribed is updated every seven years, the state of viability is assessed and recommendations made for improved safeguarding where needed. This List is published on the MoC website and regularly updated. Elements for inscription may be proposed by any person related to its locality and evaluated by the National Council on the basis of two expert reports. Bearers often initiate nominations for inscription, as well as regional departments of the NIFC, and the nominations are usually prepared jointly with communities and bearers, including safeguarding measures, and their free and informed consent must be provided. The Czech Ethnological Society (an accredited non-governmental organization under the 2003 Convention) plays an important role in identifying and defining elements of intangible cultural heritage. The Bearers List includes the names of persons (five may be nominated annually) who are exponents of traditional crafts and who ensure the continuity of their skills and know-how through inter-generational transmission. Inscribed tradition bearers are presented on a website managed by NIFC and their work promoted through two DVDs and a publication. They may be proposed by any person associated with their locality to the NIFC which evaluates proposals and forwards them to an expert advisory committee of the MoC. Both lists reflect the viability of the inscribed elements.
With regard to other safeguarding measures, elements have traditionally been safeguarded by associations (e.g. related to social or annual events), presented to the local media as appropriate. Access to elements is not restricted and information provided by bearers is publicly available; for this, several websites have been set up by state organizations which are linked to the communities and information is posted with their consent. In terms of policies, intangible cultural heritage has been included in the National Cultural Policy (2009-2014) and the Strategy for More Efficient Conservation of Traditional Folk Culture (2004-2010) has been the main policy tool for implementing the Convention; similar strategic instruments have been adopted by regional governments.
Scientific research and publishing activities have been focused on safeguarding projects and state support is provided for specialized publications on ethnography and the conservation of intangible cultural heritage (identification, documentation, inventorying and archiving) and research related to nominations for the National List. Local and regional publications (e.g. of song collections) also represent an important aspect of safeguarding as do publications of university research institutes (e.g. manuals on methodology). Many studies and rescue research projects on folk architecture also have a direct impact on safeguarding traditional craft and construction techniques. Between 2011 and 2015, NIFC financed two major projects for a programme of applied research and development of national cultural identity, namely: on the techniques of traditional clay architecture in Moravia and the regional context of the Middle Danube region; and using the Geographical information system (GIS) for mapping traditional folk culture. Public access to this information is through the Geographical information system for traditional folk culture (GISTraLiK) website, which has provided free public access since 2015.
Educational programmes on regional intangible cultural heritage are offered in primary and secondary school curricula and there are also elementary art schools that focus on folklore. NIFC issued a manual in 2015 to provide guidance for teachers on integrating intangible cultural heritage into school curricula and also organizes lectures in primary schools. Universities that teach ethnology, anthropology and historical sciences also provide some courses related to intangible cultural heritage and there is one specialized course on ‘UNESCO and Safeguarding intangible cultural heritage’. In addition, a number of courses are held to enhance the capacity of the scientific community, such as in the use of electronic resources (such as GIS) in ethnology. Extra-curricular activities, such as the ‘Our Daily Bread project’ that introduces children to the process of bread-making and courses on folk dances and songs, also encourage young people to develop an interest in intangible cultural heritage; such non-formal educational activities are well-established in Czechia. The National Information and Consulting Centre for Culture (NIPOS), a research agency, also holds specialized seminars and training programmes for children, young people and adults using both modern and traditional methods.
For raising awareness of and promoting intangible cultural heritage, the Czech branch of the International Council of Organizations of Folklore Festivals and Folk Arts (CIOFF) plays an important role thanks in particular to the large number folklore festivals organized throughout the year. Also, many regional and open-air museums hold special events to introduce visitors to traditional festive events, customs and crafts. The promotion of elements is also supported through brand names such as Manufaktura, a nationwide brand that includes 250 crafts persons and small businesses, and LUTA, a shop that sells products made from natural materials by traditional methods. The mass media also play a crucial role in promoting intangible cultural heritage and there are a number of dedicated TV and radio programmes.
Involvement in multinational nominations to the Representative List is an important form of bilateral, sub-regional, regional and international cooperation, and Czechia joined the Falconry element in 2012 and cooperates closely with Slovakia and other members of the International Institute of Falconry. In 2013, it also took part in discussions over the intangible cultural heritage in Central Europe aimed at exchanging experiences (e.g. on the impacts of inscription) and planning potential multinational nominations. Regional cooperation is also achieved through the ETNOFOLK project (covering Austria, Czechia, Hungary and Slovenia) to develop a multilingual website linking the databases of ethnological institutions and presenting digitized documentation. For networking, NIFC supports cooperation with overseas institutions active in the field of intangible cultural heritage and is examining the use of open-air museums (with Austria, Poland, Hungary, Romania and Germany) and organized an exchange of 80 staff with two Norwegian museums. NIFC is also a member of several international non-governmental organizations.
Czechia has four elements inscribed on the Representative List. The Slovácko Verbuňk, recruit dances element inscribed in 2008 has been revitalized in places where it had faced disappearance; women and girls now also take part in this traditionally male performance in some areas and both bearers and rural young people play central roles in its safeguarding, as well as folk dance ensembles. Despite increased visibility following inscription and efforts to promote it, the rural character of the element and the relatively high cost of the associated tangible objects both challenge its future viability. Since its inscription in 2010, the Shrovetide door-to-door processions and masks in the villages of the Hlineko area has been revived in three villages and more people follow the main procession. The local museum plays an important coordinating role in safeguarding, organizing processions and liaising with bearers, villages and local governmental authorities. Concerning the Ride of the Kings in the south-east of the Czech Republic (inscribed in 2011), concerns exist about a tendency to demonstrate the ride outside its natural environment and, thus, without its original meaning. Falconry, a living heritage (inscribed with United Arab Emirates, Austria, Belgium, France, Hungary, Republic of Korea, Mongolia, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Syrian Arab Republic in 2012) encompasses biological knowledge about birds of prey and associated environmental know-how. Possible threats to this element in the future include negative impacts on the environment and its natural resources and changes in farming methods; hence, the Ministry of Agriculture is a lead governmental agency involved in its safeguarding.