The Heritage domain in the Culture Monitor includes four disciplines: movable, immovable, intangible and (born) digital heritage. While data has been collected on the first two categories for some time, this is even less the case with intangible and digital heritage. This page pays extra attention to the last two categories mentioned and the interaction between heritage and society.


Heritage is all about the community. There is a change underway where the focus is shifting from experts defining what cultural heritage is to community involvement. This change is reflected in, among other things, the Treaty of Faro, initiatives aimed at diversity and inclusion, and the increasing interest in intangible heritage. Discussions about restitution and decision-making regarding returning art and artifacts to their original places, as well as a multi-faceted approach to broadening the definition of culture, have also been important developments over the past year.

Introduction and key figures

Heritage includes a multitude of objects and activities in cultural life, and thus cuts across other domains such as the visual arts, performing arts or games. Heritage reflects the way in which we as a society view our environment, and this is expressed, for example, in an art object, dance performance, museum collection or festival. In the Heritage Act is cultural heritage therefore defined as follows: 'material and intangible resources inherited from the past, created over time by humans or arising from the interaction between humans and the environment, which humans, independently of their possession, identify as a reflection and expression of continuously developing values, beliefs, knowledge and traditions, and which provide them and future generations with a frame of reference' (Bussemaker 2015). Heritage and its understanding are therefore constantly changing and subject to the way we organize our society.

However, a monitor requires demarcation. After all, to measure you need an indication of what you are going to measure. This brings us to the following definition:

  • Movable heritage: tangible heritage that can be moved, such as archives in physical form or images and paintings in a museum. This also includes mobile heritage, such as a steam train or another means of transport from the past (National Government).
  • Real estate: tangible and site-specific heritage, such as historic buildings and monuments and protected city and village views.
  • Intangible heritage: cultural expressions that are intangible and give communities, groups or individuals a sense of identity. This heritage is dynamic and is continually reshaped in conjunction with social changes and interaction, and lives from generation to generation (KIEN zj). Think of crafts (miller's craft, chair weaving), performing arts (singing shanties, tambú) or festivities and social practices (Summer Carnival Rotterdam, Pride Amsterdam, King's Day).
  • Digital heritage: digitized heritage (heritage material that is not originally digital, but of which a digital reproduction has been made), born digital (heritage without analogue equivalent) and digital information about heritage (descriptions of heritage objects, also called metadata) (Grooten et al. 2008 ). Examples are games, digital texts, photos and videos, or digital designs that are necessary for the creation of objects, for example.

We are well aware that the four categories are connected and cannot be separated so easily, such as rituals or crafts associated with certain objects, or parades in historic city centers. And so digitization plays a major role in both archiving and the creation of contemporary art.

Monuments and city and village views

The visualization below provides insight into the many national monuments and monumental city and village views in the Netherlands. You can switch between the different graphs via the tabs above the figure.

Source: Heritage Monitor / National Cultural Heritage Agency

The Cultural Heritage Agency (RCE) has been collecting data on the state of heritage for years, and presents these facts and figures about built and archaeological monuments, museums and collections and historical landscape in its Heritage monitor. In 2023, the Netherlands will have 61.729 national monuments, including windmills, castles, churches and landscaped greenery, such as parks and gardens of country estates. By far most of the national monuments consists of houses (31.543), followed by farms and mills (9.898).

Dealing with the cultural heritage in our living environment is regulated in the environmental code. This concerns matters such as the environmental permit for national monuments, the appointment of a monument committee, or taking cultural heritage into account in environmental plans. The Environmental Act came into effect on January 1, 2024, which includes the spatial protection of cultural heritage. This law requires a new approach from municipalities with various spatial instruments. Municipalities have until 2030 to complete environmental plans. The Environmental Act not only includes spatial planning, but also regulations for heritage conservation in the living environment. This requires a different assessment by municipalities: balancing urban development (such as housing) with the preservation and integration of heritage. Such integration can provide a well-thought-out approach that preserves heritage in future residential projects, for a culturally rich and sustainable living environment.


The data below has a provisional status in the CBS source data.

€ x 1.000.000

Source: CBS

Most major museums (with a turnover of 3,2 million euros and more) are located in South and North Holland (respectively 26 and 22 percent of the total in 2022), and more than half of all museums are history museums. But heritage is more than just tangible culture. Netherlands Intangible Heritage Knowledge Center (KIEN) – which maps the various forms of intangible heritage and safeguards it for the future – reports on 210 different forms of heritage in their inventory in 2023 . Of these, the largest category is 'Festivities, rituals and social practices', which includes, for example, King's Day, various flower parades or the 'kopro beki' tradition.

Intangible heritage and participation in heritage

The data below on the various forms of intangible heritage in the Netherlands Intangible Heritage Inventory add up to a higher total than stated in the text. This is because one item in inventory can fall under multiple categories.


Source: Netherlands Intangible Heritage Knowledge Center and Boekman Foundation/OCW/CBS

What else do we want to know about the Heritage domain?

It is important to follow the pursuit of multi-vocality and inclusion. There is a lot of relevant literature about the Caribbean Netherlands, for example the collection of Antillean heritage by Gert Oostindie and Alex van Stipriaan of Boekman 128: Culture in the Caribbean part of the Kingdom. KIEN is also working in collaboration with the Caribbean islands on three websites for intangible heritage, so that the islands can add their own heritage files with inventories. The Bonaire website has been online since March 2022. How can we include such data and information in the monitor and in what form is this desirable? Finally, this report lacks data on diversity and inclusion in subcategories such as archaeology, landscape and built heritage. We want to pay more attention to this in the next update in 2023. The data for intangible heritage is still limited. There are plenty of qualitative examples, but due to a lack of structural data it remains difficult to gain a quantitative insight into intangible heritage. An attempt is made for practice and visits in the Leisure Omnibus (VTO), but it remains limited.

Data about digital heritage is also not always accessible or available. Which indicators do you use, for example to measure digital consumption (visits/visitors)? And how do these relate to physical consumption, such as a visit to a museum? Research into digital heritage indicators is currently being conducted by the NDE, the continuation of which will be carried out by the RCE. It is important to connect with these developments with the Culture Monitor.

Want to know more about the Heritage domain?

View more data about the Heritage domain the dashboard of the Culture Monitor.

Read an earlier version of this text again December 2021 en January 2023.

More literature about the Heritage domain can also be found in the knowledge base of the Boekman Foundation.


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Bussemaker, M. (2015) Bundling and adapting rules in the field of cultural heritage (Heritage Act). House of Representatives 34109, no. 3.

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Council for Culture (2023) Work program 2023-2024. The Hague: Council for Culture.

National government (zj) Take care of movable heritage. On: www.rijksoverheid.nl.

Small, Z. (2019) A new definition of “museum'' sparks international debate. On: www.hyperallergic.com.

TNO (2023) Exploring digital transformation and one digital interactive space in the cultural sector. Final report TNO 2023 R10852.

UNESCO (n.d.) File: Intangible heritage . On: www.unesco.nl.

UNESCO (n.d.) Irreplaceable. The innovative power of the culture. On: www.unesco.nl.

Uslu, G. (2022a) Offer of advice 'Irreplaceable and Indispensable' from the Netherlands Collection Committee. The Hague: Ministry of Education, Culture and Science.

Uslu, G. (2022b) Multi-year letter – The power of creativity. The Hague: Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. 

Uslu, G. (2023) Letter to Parliament on the return of cultural property to Indonesia and Sri Lanka | Parliamentary piece. The Hague: Ministry of Education, Culture and Science.

Visser, J. and L. Kuiper (joint) (2021) Museum figures 2020. Amsterdam: Museum Foundation, Museum Association.

Visser, J. and L. Kuiper (joint) (2022) Museum figures 2021. Amsterdam: Museum Foundation, Museum Association.

Accountability image

Summer Carnival Rotterdam / Photography: Ugur Arpaci via Unsplash

Editorial office

An earlier version of this domain page was co-authored by Shomara Roosblad.