Cultural Federalism and the Museum Sector in Germany

1. Fed­er­al­ism

The Fed­er­al Re­pub­lic of Ger­many con­sists of 16 fed­er­al states (Län­der), all of which have their own con­sti­tu­tions and par­lia­ments. The mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties - lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties, towns and dis­tricts - are part of the fed­er­al states.

 2. Re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of Fed­er­al and State Gov­ern­ments

The Ba­sic Law reg­u­lates the di­vi­sion of state pow­ers be­tween the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment and the fed­er­al states. The fed­er­al gov­ern­ment ex­er­cis­es re­spon­si­bil­i­ty where this is as­signed to it by the Ba­sic Law; oth­er­wise the fed­er­al states ex­er­cise re­spon­si­bil­i­ty.

At the fed­er­al lev­el, the Of­fice of the Fed­er­al Gov­ern­ment Com­mis­sion­er for Cul­ture and the Me­dia (BKM) was cre­at­ed in 1998 to bring to­geth­er the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment’s cul­tur­al and me­dia pol­i­cy ac­tiv­i­ties in one gov­ern­ment au­thor­i­ty. The BKM’s tasks in­clude fur­ther de­vel­op­ing le­gal frame­works for the cul­tur­al and me­dia sec­tor and pro­mot­ing cul­tur­al in­sti­tu­tions and projects of na­tion­al im­por­tance.

The fed­er­al sys­tem is based up­on co­op­er­a­tion be­tween the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment and the fed­er­al states. In ad­di­tion, the fed­er­al state prin­ci­ple obliges the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment and the fed­er­al states to pro­vide mu­tu­al con­sid­er­a­tion and as­sis­tance; this co­op­er­a­tive ap­proach is re­flect­ed in the fact that the fed­er­al states play a part in cre­at­ing fed­er­al leg­is­la­tion via the Fed­er­al Coun­cil (Bun­desrat), for ex­am­ple.

3. Au­ton­o­my of the Fed­er­al States in Cul­tur­al and Ed­u­ca­tion­al Mat­ters

In ac­cor­dance with the di­vi­sion of tasks and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties un­der the Ba­sic Law, the fed­er­al states have cul­tur­al and ed­u­ca­tion­al au­ton­o­my. In this re­spect, cul­tur­al and ed­u­ca­tion­al au­ton­o­my means that the fed­er­al states or the mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties are re­spon­si­ble for cul­tur­al and ed­u­ca­tion­al mat­ters. In this con­text, the Fed­er­al Con­sti­tu­tion­al Court, for in­stance, re­gards the cul­tur­al and ed­u­ca­tion­al au­ton­o­my of the fed­er­al states as an in­trin­sic part of their sovereign­ty. The fed­er­al states have es­tab­lished the Stand­ing Con­fer­ence of the Min­is­ters of Ed­u­ca­tion and Cul­tur­al Af­fairs of the Län­der in the Fed­er­al Re­pub­lic of Ger­many (KMK) for the co­or­di­na­tion of is­sues re­lat­ing to ed­u­ca­tion across the fed­er­al states. Un­der the KMK um­brel­la, the Con­fer­ence of Cul­tur­al Min­is­ters (Kul­tur-MK) be­came op­er­a­tional in 2019. With­in this frame­work, the min­is­ters and sen­a­tors of the fed­er­al states who are entrusted with cultural matters hold in­de­pen­dent dis­cus­sions and con­sul­ta­tions on cul­tur­al pol­i­cy mat­ters of supra-re­gion­al im­por­tance with the aim of rep­re­sent­ing com­mon in­ter­ests to the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment.

4. The Mu­se­um Sec­tor

In­sti­tu­tions in Ger­many that hold cul­tur­al as­sets are par­tic­u­lar­ly mu­se­ums, li­braries and archives. The ma­jor­i­ty of these in­sti­tu­tions are sup­port­ed with mu­nic­i­pal fund­ing. Oth­ers are fund­ed by the fed­er­al states. In ad­di­tion, there are al­so some in­sti­tu­tions that are fund­ed by the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment, such as the Stiftung Preußis­ch­er Kul­turbe­sitz (Prus­sian Cul­tur­al Her­itage Foun­da­tion). With re­gard to de­ci­sion-mak­ing, the bod­ies re­spon­si­ble for sup­port­ing the cul­tur­al her­itage in­sti­tu­tions are in­de­pen­dent from federal instructions.

5. The Ger­man Lost Art Foun­da­tion

The Ger­man Lost Art Foun­da­tion was es­tab­lished in Magde­burg on Jan­uary 1, 2015, by the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment, all the fed­er­al states and the three lead­ing mu­nic­i­pal as­so­ci­a­tions. It serves as an in­stru­ment of co­op­er­a­tion at fed­er­al lev­el. One of the Foun­da­tion’s pri­ma­ry tasks is to pro­mote and connect prove­nance re­search. As a civ­il law foun­da­tion, the Ger­man Lost Art Foun­da­tion has no le­gal pow­ers. It is nei­ther in­te­grat­ed in­to nor sub­or­di­nate to the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment, fed­er­al states or mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties. This ap­plies to all fields of the Foun­da­tion’s statu­to­ry tasks, such as the pro­mo­tion of re­search, doc­u­men­ta­tion of find­ings and pub­lic re­la­tions ac­tiv­i­ties. The work of the Foun­da­tion is steered by a Foun­da­tion Board on which the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment, fed­er­al states and mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties are rep­re­sent­ed. The fed­er­al gov­ern­ment, as fund­ing provider, fi­nances the work of the Foun­da­tion and its op­er­a­tional tasks via the Fed­er­al Gov­ern­ment Com­mis­sion­er for Cul­ture and the Me­dia.