The concept of cultural heritage is hardly new. Its roots are in the work of philologists, archaeologists, ethnographers, archivists, and art collectors, who developed the world’s great libraries and museums. They also paved the way for the development of nation-states and the internationalist world order. Nevertheless, the definition of cultural heritage is still controversial, and it can be difficult to define.
It is important for many economic and social reasons. The preservation of cultural heritage acts as a powerful healing tool for war-torn societies. For example, after the Second World War, General Douglas MacArthur helped the Japanese preserve their culture, and after the war, Auschwitz was turned into a memorial and museum. Rather than being a symptom of ignorance, cultural heritage is a crucial part of the world. Whether you know someone who has lived in a place or not, cultural heritage has shaped it.
But is the eradication of cultural practices bad or beneficial? Many historians believe so, because colonial powers forced the eradication of indigenous languages, ceremonies, and art. Many colonial powers benefited from these products. That’s why they imposed boarding schools for Native Americans to assimilate them. However, there are some good examples of cultural appropriation. And the debate on cultural appropriation must not be dominated by one side.
A central issue in defining cultural property is the definition of what constitutes a “cultural” group. While the concept of cultural property originated as a concern of Western nations, it has subsequently expanded to include stories, songs, and styles, motifs, practices, and traditional knowledge. Intangible cultural heritage, by contrast, is not as easily categorized. It can be difficult to trace the lineages of cultural traditions from one country to another.
Many cultural heritage objects are of immense cultural and aesthetic value. Some claim that they are protected by international law. Yet, this approach is not based on the principle that cultural property is protected by law. While this is generally true, cultural property is often deemed to be “private” and therefore subject to national laws. It’s also true that cultural heritage often has a value that can exceed that of private property. So if cultural property is protected by international law, it’s still worth studying.
However, it is important to note that heritage can take many forms. Not only can cultural heritage take different forms, but its uses reveal the underlying assumptions about how it should be viewed. Moreover, heritage can be used to challenge dominant historical narratives. It’s therefore important to distinguish official heritage from unofficial heritage. The question remains: does cultural heritage really matter? It is important to recognize and respect the importance of cultural heritage. This is especially true when dealing with intangible cultural property.
While the legal definition of cultural patrimony is ambiguous, the value of cultural property should be clearly defined and legally protected. It should be understood that cultural patrimony is the collective property of a people and that a nation may have different rights to it. The U.S. Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act is one such precedent. It facilitates the return of Native American artifacts and remains. This law is one of the most important in the history of cultural heritage.