This report is the second report on heritage at risk in Sweden. It includes material from the first report, but has additional information built on further information gained from a seminar arranged by the Swedish National Committee, 8 March 2001. The seminar aimed at defining what is a RISK for cultural heritage. To that end, Professor Thorbjörn Thedéen from the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm was invited to introduce the problem. He particularly emphasised the need for continuous risk analysis concerning cultural heritage. Overall, we need to discuss issues such as:

  • Possible consequences.

  • What cultural heritage is indispensable?

  • Risk analysis as a base for decision-making.

  • How do political reforms, other sectors’ decisions affect heritage?

  • Are the consequences for heritage irreversible?

  • The applicability of the Nara Principles, for instance the use of copies.

  • Public participation and information as a tool to avoid ignorance of the heritage.

Economic change, changes in infrastructure and environmental threats are the major threats to heritage in Sweden. How to meet these risks is the challenge for the future. The challenge includes seeking co-operation with other sectors of society to create an understanding of heritage and its potential in regional and national development. It is also important to widen general public knowledge and awareness about heritage at local, regional and national levels.

General Information on the Protection of Cultural Heritage in Sweden

Monuments and sites in Sweden are protected by law. There is special legislation for monuments, both ancient monuments that are automatically protected, and the built environment where there is a need for a decree to validate the protection. There are additional possibilities to protect monuments and sites on a national level through the Environmental Code that also covers large areas - cultural landscapes for instance. On a local level, possibilities to protect buildings and heritage places exist in the Planning and Building legislation. In addition, each sector legislation has regulations for cultural heritage considerations. Since the 1970s, the heritage sector participates in National Physical Planning. Today, the country of Sweden can note the following statistics:

  • A building stock of about 5 million buildings.

  • 450,000 registered ancient monuments protected automatically by the Cultural Heritage Act.

  • 1500 sites with protected buildings (containing many more buildings) out of a foreseen amount of 3000. Protected by the Cultural Heritage Act after a special declaration - 13 gardens and parks, out of an unknown number. Other parks and gardens are protected, together with manor houses and castles.

  • 3000 churches protected by the Cultural Heritage Act.

  • 1400 areas of National Importance, protected by the Environmental Code (including cultural landscapes).

On a national level, the State Conservation office operates as the National Heritage Board. All 21 Counties have a Heritage unit within the County Administrations. There are also 24 County Museums, in addition to other museums at a local level and to private museums. All these institutions have heritage specialists, most of whom are archaeologists, art historians or architects. Only one position as a garden conservator exists with the National Heritage Board and none at the other levels.

The Government has also established a special body for management of the most valuable property owned by the State: the National Property Board. The National Heritage Board, the County Administration Heritage units and the County Museums co-operate in questions concerning the preservation of the Cultural Heritage in an organised way, supported by grants from the Government. Around 250 million SEK is available as grants from the Government to private owners for extra costs in restoration - however, ‘normal’ maintenance is always the responsibility of the owner. The grants are also given to cultural tourism programmes and information.

Sweden is a sparsely populated country, with the main building mass and population concentrated in the regions around the big cities: Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö. The country has been inhabited for the last 15,000 years, since the end of the last Ice Age. In historic times, the country has been mainly an agricultural area, while some parts have had mining and ironworks. Forestry, paper and glass production are other important sectors arising from the use of national resources.

Main Threatened Structures (without any priority order)

Farmsteads and agricultural landscapes
Since the last decades, the change in agricultural policies has brought many farmsteads into decay. It has also impacted open agricultural landscapes, which in some areas have been planted with forests. Abandoned animal production and new regulations for animal housing have caused deterioration to cow houses and barns no longer in use. In certain areas of great cultural value, the government and the cultural preservation units have earmarked grants to maintain these kinds of structures. This is particularly obvious at the islands Öland and Gotland in the Baltic Sea, and in the county of Jämtland in northern Sweden. Unforeseen changes in national and/or European Union policies could be an additional threat in the future.

Manor houses and their cultural landscapes
Because the Entailed Estate Institution has been abandoned in Sweden, for some years castles and manor houses have been inherited in a common manner. No National Trust exists in Sweden, nor is there a possibility for a tax reduction for owners of cultural property. As a result, these properties are sold and the collections scattered. Many of the manor estates are converted into conference hotels and the land is divided into several shares and sold.

Historical parks and gardens
The greatest threat to gardens and parks is the lack of knowledge at all levels of society. The general public does not recognise gardens and parks as part of the cultural heritage. There is a lack of inventories and a lack of knowledge of their conservation and maintenance.

Industrial heritage
Sweden was not industrialised to any great extent until the late-19th century. The main industry was based on iron, forest and copper, once the base for the wealth of the country. Most of it has vanished now that production is cheaper elsewhere in the world. Industrial heritage sites, often with huge buildings, stand as monuments of a passed era, most often without any new use. The national level estimates that it is possible to preserve some of these with government grants. The rest is severely threatened if grants or a new use cannot be found to save them. Industrial heritage also includes railroads and old roads threatened by new infrastructure changes.

Housing areas
The housing areas built after World War II are now in a state that makes restoration necessary - this includes rebuilding, and often new colours. Much of this building stock is not protected and is under threat of loss of its high original qualities, though not destroyed completely.

Threats to ancient monuments
Looting is and has through centuries been a threat, although it has been minimised through education of the general public and strong protective legislation. In modern times, looting by using metal detectors is the main problem, often by foreigners.

Land use in the agricultural sector and in forestry has always been a threat, which is minimised by inventories and information to these sectors. For example, the systematic planting of new forests and resulting acidity has caused damage to rock art in the County of Bohuslän. Forestry activities have caused mechanical damage to ancient monuments. So have the contemporary ideas of nature conservation, promoting the ‘free development of forests’. Research has shown that more than 30% of ancient monuments in forests are affected. Information and workshops with the forestry sector are expected to minimise the damage in the future.

Infrastructure projects, such as large hydropower projects and the establishment of new satellite towns outside the big cities, are a threat. The loss of knowledge is also a risk, but is to some extent avoided by documentation of the expected losses.

The Rock Art World Heritage site in Tanum is under threat from the construction of a new road. The project is monitored by the National authorities, and by ICOMOS and UNESCO. Not only is the rock art at risk, but also the visual integrity of the landscape.

Other Risks to the Heritage

Stone in buildings and other constructions
Air pollution affecting especially soft stones is a threat, also brought to us from other countries. Although powerful efforts have been made in co-operation with the Council of Europe, and inventories and conservation work have been undertaken, this is an ongoing problem. Air pollution also causes threat to finds in ancient monuments and to rock art. The EU project, Tanum Laboratory on Cultural Heritage, based in Sweden, tries to find solutions to this problem.

Traditional crafts and traditional materials
Traditional crafts and traditional materials are at risk because they do not have a supportive market. The national authorities work to provide information to people in general and to builders to understand the importance of using these materials in heritage maintenance.

European Union directives
European Union directives on health and safety also impact on materials and methods used in the restoration of buildings. These directives are often accepted without the possibility for the Directorate for Culture to be involved or to interfere. For example, at the moment, pine tar is forbidden for health reasons, without the possibility to discuss its future use within certain limits. Tar is used on wooden church roofs and bell towers in Sweden and in other Scandinavian countries, as well as for the protection of wooden boats, wooden harbour pavements and so on.

The planning and building legislation is mainly applied to the construction of new buildings, although there are possibilities to use the legislation to save old constructions. There is therefore a need to improve the tools available through that legislation.

Birgitta Hoberg