Cultural Persecution and Erasure

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cultural heritage

Cultural heritage is a vital element of economic development and social stability. It helps bring people together and provides a means for transmitting practices, traditions, and lifeways. Many nations develop programs to preserve and protect their cultural assets. For example, many countries have government ministries of culture that conduct conservation and preservation efforts. There are also a variety of non-governmental organizations that develop revitalization and restoration programs to keep cultural sites and resources in good condition.

A large and valuable part of humankind’s heritage is embodied in works of art. These artifacts serve as a repository of cultural identity and are vehicles for spiritual transcendence. When these artifacts are damaged, lost, or destroyed, it is important to know where they come from. As such, it is essential to have experts in various disciplines on hand to preserve these treasures.

The preservation of cultural heritage requires a wide range of expertise, including archaeologists, chemists, archivists, educators, and community leaders. Cultural property can be threatened by armed conflict, terrorism, climate change, and benign neglect. In addition, the use of language to classify and label art can be used as a tool for oppression or erasure.

Throughout history, the intentional destruction of cultural heritage has accompanied mass atrocities and ethnic conflict. Some of these atrocities, such as those committed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the Taliban, have resulted in enormous harm to individuals, groups, and communities.

In the United States, for instance, the American Museum of Natural History acquired an image of Paikea in 1908, and placed it on a storage shelf. This artwork is a target for collectors and middlemen. However, its value as a representation of a cultural identity is diminished when the work is relegated to a museum.

In the 1800s, the American Indians were viewed as inferior and were targeted for destruction. At the foot of the Capitol, a national museum was established to celebrate their culture. Yet, the government began assimilation and marked the indigenous population for destruction.

By the end of World War II, the drive to create new nations out of older ones had become a focal point in internationalist world order. President Franklin Roosevelt recognized the need to protect the country’s cultural heritage. Meanwhile, in Japan, General Douglas MacArthur supported Japanese efforts to safeguard cultural treasures.

During the early Stalin years of the Soviet Union, art became a commodity. Some of these artifacts were returned to museums when the Soviets fell, but others were sold abroad. Likewise, in Latin America, antiquities were often bought and sold on the international market. But in recent decades, these objects have been pillaged, looted, and sold at auction.

UNESCO, which oversees the World Heritage Program, has ratified a treaty on the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage. In addition, a number of intergovernmental organizations and local government ministries of culture have developed revitalization and preservation efforts.

In addition to their own efforts, benefactors and local communities are often involved in the creation and maintenance of cultural heritage. Educators, social workers, and ethnographers are also sometimes involved in the development of cultural heritage programs.