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Since 1985, the French Ministry of Culture and Communication has pursued a policy of preserving and promoting France's heritage. Historic towns and districts have been designated Villes et Pays d'Art et d'Histoire (Towns and Lands of Art and History).

The Ministry provides financial and technical support to regions and groups for architectural and heritage undertakings. The Ministry imposes an obligation on beneficiaries to receive workers it has deemed qualified to participate in projects. The national council of towns and districts of art and history (Le conseil national des Villes et Pays d'Art et d'Histoire), set up in 1995, participates in the development and general policy of the network. It advises on the eligibility of towns and districts for the Lands of Art and History designation, and effects withdrawal of support from landmarks where standards slip.

Policies of the network are put into effect by the regional directorates of arts and culture (Direction régionale des affaires culturelles: DRAC). The directorates seek to ensure that projects are relevant and blend into the culture of the region. They also serve as intermediaries between localities and the national organization.

In 2005, about 130 towns and districts were part of this network.

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