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In 2022, Kulturanalys Norden, in collaboration with the Nordregio research institute, expanded the knowledge about access to and accessibility of culture in the Nordic countries. The work is a continuation of earlier mapping projects to highlight access to culture at municipal level in the Nordic region. The continued work used location coordinates to map cultural activities at grid level, and to coordinate cultural activities with population data at the same level of detail.
The purpose of the survey is to study the accessibility of culture to Nordic residents measured in travel distance. As well as to enhance the reasoning about potential exchanges across municipal and national borders. There is also a parallel focus on the investigation of differences in accessibility between residents linked to socio-economic variables such as education. The delimitation has been made to the cultural activities at public libraries, cinemas, museums and publicly funded performing arts activities. The calculations are based on the geographical distance between cultural activities (service point) and population and are based on a grid measuring 1000 x 1000 metres (kilometre grid).
The analysis is based on five defined distance ranges: very high 0–2 kilometres; high 2–10 kilometres; medium 10–40 kilometres; low 40–70 kilometres; and, very low 70 kilometres and further.

Accessibility varies but is generally high for public libraries

Accessibility of culture varies within the Nordic region. The results show that the physical location of cultural activities generally follows population structures. Where most cultural activities are located in the more densely populated municipalities, and where the capital city areas have by far the most cultural activities. Geographically, the Nordic countries are also characterised by large sparsely populated areas where the accessibility of culture is lower. Differences in accessibility measured by travel distance are largely linked to an urban-rural scale. Nordic residents living in more urbanised areas have shorter distances to culture than others. It is also a question of differences between the Nordic countries, where Denmark is characterised by a better geographical spread of cultural activities and accordingly fewer differences between residents linked to place of residence.
Accessibility of public libraries in the Nordic region is generally high. The populated kilometre grids have an average distance of approximately 11 kilometres to a public library. In approximate terms, this corresponds to a vehicle journey of around 10 minutes. Many residents have even shorter distances, correspondingly very high. What pushes up the average value are the sparsely populated areas where the residents have longer distances. Accessibility of other cultural activities is lower, but this does not mean that it is the same for everyone. In general, accessibility of the activities studied for residents in areas categorised as urban is high. Publicly funded performing arts activities are, at their most, geographically limited, and the distances are greater than 70 kilometres for large proportions of the residents of Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Finland. In order to achieve a functioning structure, it is vital to have, in parallel, a touring performing arts activity.
The more common a cultural activity is, the better the geographical spread tends to be. Cultural activities that are fewer in number are predominantly located in the most urbanised, densely populated areas. This coincides with the fact that the proportion of highly educated people is higher in urban areas, and that the accessibility of studied cultural activities to the residents there is generally much higher.

Cultural exchanges are possible but are limited to previously established commuting areas

The survey has highlighted potential exchanges across administrative boundaries, and the calculations of distance have not taken into account whether or not the nearest cultural activity is in the municipality of residence. Instead, the results show that residents of some municipalities in Finland and Sweden, for example, are in fact closer to a cultural activity in the neighbouring country. The analysis makes it clear that the measured accessibility increases when administrative boundaries do not limit access to culture. It also provides a more accurate picture of the situation in terms of how the cultural infrastructure facilitates participation regardless of municipal affiliation.
The clusters of cultural activities coincide with the Nordic region's metropolitan areas, and those classified as urban areas in the Nordic urban-rural typology. This creates a geographical imbalance that affects large adjoining rural areas. It is not possible to clearly delimit forms of cultural clusters other than those that already constitute established population concentrations. However, there is potential to include other cultural activities in the future in order to better understand what constitutes "culturally intensive" areas.