Libraries, museums, archives, collections and exhibitions

Key objectives of the measure:

Museums, archives and libraries help preserve cultural heritage, offer access to contemporary art and facilitate participation in varying facets of cultural life. The Federal
Government supports cultural institutions of national and international significance along with outstanding individual projects throughout Germany. Together with the Länder, it finances many historically-relevant cultural establishments.

Cultural institutions of national and international significance

These include the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation with its seat in Berlin, in particular Museum Island, the Weimar Classicism Foundation (Klassik Stiftung Weimar”), and the Prussian Palaces and Gardens Foundation with its impressive park and palace landscapes. In addition, the Federal Government maintains the German Historical Museum in Berlin and, in Bonn, the Museum of Contemporary History of the Federal Republic of Germany and the Art and Exhibition Hall of the Federal Republic of Germany. The Humboldt Forum, located within the Berliner Schloss (palace) under reconstruction until approximately 2019, is destined to become an international centre for world cultures in the heart of Berlin where the non-European collections of the Ethnological Museum of the National Museums in Berlin will find a new home.

Several important literary museums, libraries and archives such as the German Literature Archive in Marbach, the Duchess Anna Amalia Library of the Klassik Stiftung Weimar and the Goethe House of the Freies Deutsches Hochstift in Frankfurt/Main, as well as the Kleist Museum in Frankfurt/Oder and the Buddenbrooks House in Lübeck, are helping to preserve Germany’s rich literary heritage. The work of the German Academy for Language and Poetry in Darmstadt, which awards one of the most important German literary prizes, the Georg Büchner Prize, also receives support.

The Federal Government, along with the Länder, funds manifold nationally significant cultural institutions and outstanding projects in the capital Berlin (e.g. the Akademie der Künste, the Jewish Museum Berlin, the Haus der Kulturen der Welt, the Martin-Gropius-Bau, the Berliner Festspiele, the Deutsche Kinemathek) and over 70 cultural establishments in the Länder (e.g. the Bach Archive in Leipzig, the Goethe House in Frankfurt, the Beethoven House in  Bonn). In addition, the Federal Government takes part in large construction projects (e.g. the renovation of the Bremer Kunsthalle and the Berliner Staatsoper “Unter den Linden”, the rebuilding of the Ozeaneum in Stralsund). Through such projects, nationwide cultural heritage is being promoted and strengthened. Twenty “cultural beacons” (Kulturelle Leuchttürme) in the new Länder4 have been durably supported in cooperation with the Länder and local governments (e.g. the Stiftung Bauhaus Dessau, the Stiftung Luther-Gedenkstätten, the Franckesche Stiftungen in Halle). The programme for national cultural institutions in eastern Germany has supported additional institutions (e.g. the Grassi Museums in Leipzig, the Stiftung Deutsches Hygiene Museum in Dresden, the Bach House in Eisenach).


In 2010 there were a total of 8,256 public libraries in Germany operated mainly by municipalities. In addition to these general libraries, Germany was home to 240 university libraries and 190 special research libraries, which were largely financed by the Länder. In 2010, the general public libraries recorded some 124 million visitors. The same year, there were about 200 million visitors to all libraries in Germany (10,705). Libraries thus represent one of the most frequently used cultural institutions. Through expanding digital services, libraries can both attract new target and user groups, and reach library users that would otherwise be excluded from accessing the libraries’ resources due to limited mobility. New media open great opportunities for better access to culture for large sections of the population and are being widely used. They open the way to hitherto unavailable information sources, worldwide connectivity, and new businesses and professions. Therefore, it is the Federal Government’s goal to promote this sector. An example of the opportunities afforded by the Internet is the German Digital Library, financed by the Federal Government and the Länder. In the project’s first stage, the existing digital holdings of more than 30,000 German cultural and research institutions will be made available online to all citizens. From 2012 onward, the project will be accessible on the Internet and then linked to the European digital library, Europeana.


In 2007 there were 4,712 museums in Germany, over half of which were publicly operated. The same year, 18.6% (EUR 1.6 billion, USD 2.3 billion) of total public expenditure on culture was allocated to museums, collections and exhibitions. With 107 million visitors in 2007, museums follow libraries as the most visited cultural facilities in Germany. Outside of their traditional function, museums also provide a space for critical analysis of relevant social developments. Targeted pedagogical museum programming with diverse sections of the population and with an increasingly cross-cultural orientation has significant value. Through free admissions for children and adolescents, cultural participation has increased. On the basis of the Federal Expellees Act, the Federal Government and the Länder support numerous museums as well as research and cultural institutions. These identify and research the history and culture of the historic East Germanic territories and German settlements in Eastern Europe and disseminate their findings.


Germany is endowed with a well-developed public archive collection. Federal, Länder, and municipal archives containing over 1.5 million meters of archival material, make a significant contribution to the preservation and study of cultural diversity of the past. Records will no longer be collected in paper form, but instead only digitally. Some Länder have already responded to the problem of long-term digital storage through related projects (e.g. the Digital Archive project).

Goal(s) of UNESCO's 2005 Convention
Cultural Domain(s)