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In this article, I explain why the Austrian public tends to misunderstand the main duty the Austrian National Heritage Agency (BDA) performs in the field of (archaeological) heritage protection. While most members of the public believe that it is the responsibility of the BDA to preserve all "monuments" (Denkmale), in fact, its main duty is to determine which minority of monuments are worthy of legal protection and provide them with such protection by "scheduling" (Unterschutzstellung), and which are not. The actual practical preservation of scheduled monuments, in fact, is a legal duty of their owner, not the BDA.

That misunderstanding, however, is very understandable if one considers that for many decades, the BDA has only conveyed the message that its function is to protect monuments, and is interpreting some provisions of the law as if it were its exclusive duty to preserve them in practice. Conversely, it has virtually never communicated publicly, whether by word or action, that its duty is to chose what is to be preserved, rather than to preserve anything itself.

I thus argue that the BDA and the archaeological profession must start to communicate more effectively what the duties and responsibilities of the BDA are in legal heritage protection, and what the duties of owners of scheduled monuments are. I also argue that our actions must reflect that message, because otherwise, the public will always mistake legally required inaction by the BDA (and by proxy, the archaeological profession) as failure to fulfill our duties.


  • ARCHAEOLOGY, Heritage, Heritage law, Heritage management, LAW
Original languageGerman
Media of outputScience blog
Publication statusPublished - 28 Feb 2018

Publication series

NameArchäologische Denkmalpflege
ISSN (Print)2516-4309

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