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Cultural Heritage

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cultural heritage

When people think of cultural heritage, they often think of art (paintings, prints, sculptures, mosaics) and historical monuments and buildings, as well as archaeological sites. However, the concept has evolved and become more diverse. Today, it includes all the evidence of man’s creativity and expression: “artifacts (or material remains), buildings, towns, landscapes – both natural and cultural”; and intangible heritage, including languages, ways of life, and spiritual beliefs.

Cultural heritage is under increasing threats, whether from economic factors, such as a lack of funds to maintain them; environmental (including climate change) or related to conflict and terrorism. Intangible cultural heritage is particularly at risk. This is because, unlike tangible heritage, it cannot be physically protected; it can only be passed on to the next generation in the form of oral histories and traditions.

As a result, its preservation requires much more effort than the maintenance of physical heritage. The problem is compounded by the fact that intangible cultural heritage is often more difficult to define than a painting or a building; it consists of a complex set of interconnected elements: traditions, social practices, symbolic representations, craftsmanship, oral history, religion, and other aspects of culture. It is a product of a process that, in every society, involves the continuous selection of what constitutes its heritage, to be preserved for future generations.

The choice of what to preserve can be influenced by economic considerations, such as how much an individual or group is willing to pay to consume a cultural good (use, see, experience). It can also be impacted by the relative value placed on different cultural goods, for example, the perceived value of a single artifact over the cumulative value of many smaller objects. In addition, cultural heritage is often the subject of conflicts between different groups within a society, or even across countries.

While the threat to cultural heritage may seem daunting, it can be addressed through international cooperation. This can be done by encouraging the sharing of best practice, and by facilitating the creation of new opportunities for the protection of intangible heritage. This can include supporting the creation of alternative curation and management practices that enable cultural heritage to be preserved without the need for external custodians. For instance, the emergence of museums with Aboriginal communities as part of their collections and the rethinking of traditional museum models that have historically focused on the display of antiquities can help to provide more spaces for the recognition of local culture and heritage values. This is a key step in the preservation of cultural heritage and ensuring that it can be shared with the world.