The Cultural Affairs Bureau (former Cultural Institute of Macao) was founded as a public institution on 4 September 1982 under the terms of Decree-Law no. 43/82/M. Its aim was to assist in drafting and implementing the Territory's policies on culture and academic research by organising activities relating to Sino-Portuguese cultural interchange and by disseminating and stimulating an interest in Portuguese language and culture in this part of the world.
In 1989 its Organic Statute underwent an extensive review to bring it into line with an evolving reality, with the alterations enshrined in Decree-Law no. 63/89/M of 25 September and 20/90/M of 14 May.
The Institute continued to maintain its triple role producing draft legislation, providing training in the various arts and promoting cultural events.
Two separate departments were added, the Conservatory and the Academy of Visual Arts (which in 1993 transferred to become part of the Macao Polytechnic Institute) in addition to the Historical Archives and Central Library (previously called the National Library of Macao).
On 19 December 1994, the Institute's organic and administrative structures were again reorganised in an attempt to make these more appropriate to the needs of the transition period. This has made the Cultural Affairs Bureau (former Cultural Institute of Macao) more dynamic and operational in the field of cultural activities and responsive to the goals of administrative modernisation and Increasing localisation of staff.
On 20 July 1998, the Museum of Macao had become a member of the Cultural Affairs Bureau (as stated in Decree-Law no. 31/98/M).
Pursuant to Administrative Regulation No. 5/2010 of the 29th of March, the Cultural Affairs Bureau has established the Department for the Promotion of Cultural and Creative Industries, to facilitate and promote the growth of cultural and creative industries in Macao.
On 14 December 2015, to keep pace with the cultural development of the Macao S.A.R. and rationalize the structures and functions of the public administration, according to the Administrative Regulation No. 20/2015, the work posts, staff and facilities of the cultural area of the Civil and Municipal Affairs Bureau will be transferred to the Cultural Affairs Bureau; the Regulation further regulates the organization and operation of the Cultural Affairs Bureau. This Bureau, previously comprised of 5 departments, 5 divisions, 5 sectors and 3 sections, will now include 8 departments and 16 divisions,in the total of 24 units. After the restructuring, the Cultural Heritage Department will have a new name in Chinese, keeping the same designation in Portuguese and in English, and will be comprised of the Cultural Heritage Protection Division and the Studies and Projects Division. The Cultural Heritage Protection Division will be responsible for restoring, protecting and revitalizing the immovable cultural heritage while the Studies and Projects Division will be in charge, among others, of putting forward the classification of immovable or movable assets. The Department for the Promotion of Cultural and Creative Industries will include the Division for the Planning and Development of the Cultural and Creative Industries and will be responsible for assisting in the elaboration of policies in support of the development of the cultural and creative industries. The Macao Central Library, deemed equivalent to a department, will be henceforth designated as the Public Libraries Management Department and its two sections will be converted into two divisions. The above mentioned Administrative Regulation will come into force on 1 January 2016.