Cultural Policy

The content and information are based on my dissertation project on cultural policy history in Luxembourg in the 20th century.

General outline

  1. Development of a theoretical framework for a historical approach to cultural policy.
  2. Application of the theoretical framework to a history of cultural policy in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg from the 1920s to the 1970s. Focus on national cultural policy.
  3. Inclusion of a case study, i.e. the National History and Art Museum (Musée national d’histoire et d’art, MNHA) in Luxembourg City. Analysis of the development of a national cultural institution through the lens of cultural policy.

Some researchers have already reflected on frameworks and models to analyse cultural policy (for instance the cultural policy researcher Geir Vestheim and his concept of an „overlapping zone“), but their approaches and frameworks are not suitable to a historiographic perspective, i.e. an analysis over a long period of time taking into account the general context.

Schematic representation of the framework used in the dissertation project. Copyright by Fabio Spirinelli.

In general, cultural policy is a public policy, which is also widely recognised in cultural policy research. Private actors (such as companies) do not carry our cultural policy, they can merely influence or contribute to it.

For a study on the evolution of cultural policy over a long period, historians need to consider three main elements: structures (administrative, legislative, political), actors (collective or individual; socio-cultural, political or economic) and discourses. These three elements shape cultural policy and are interrelated. Indeed, actors produce discourses, but are also act within structures. Furthermore, the national and international context can have an impact on cultural policy, as it is a highly contextual field.

The conception of such a framework also helps me to avoid the thorny issue of defining cultural policy in its content. Indeed, this would also entail the necessity to define culture: a concept that has a different meaning for every one of us, and that has changed over time, from Matthew Arnold’s very restricted definition in the 19th century (and still influential in the 20th century) to Unesco’s anthropological understanding such as defined in the Mexico Declaration on Cultural Policies (1982).

A History of the State Museums in Luxembourg

To open the timeline in a new window, click here. It is based on information included in my dissertation, but does not aim to provide a complete picture of the history of the State Museums, especially as I focused on the history and art section (precursor of the Musée national d’histoire et d’art in Luxembourg City). I would like to thank Michel Polfer (director of the MNHA) for his helpful comments, but of course I assume the entire responsibility for the timeline as its author.


Vestheim, Geir. “Cultural Policy-Making: Negotiations in an Overlapping Zone between Culture, Politics and Money.” International Journal of Cultural Policy 18, no. 5 (2012): 530–44.
Arnold, Matthew. Culture and Anarchy. Edited by Jane Garnett. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.