Defining cultural heritage is an important issue that involves the balance of private and public rights. Historically, a society’s cultural heritage has been viewed as something that belongs to the whole of the human race, even when it is privately owned. Ancient Romans, for example, recognized the value of art that was created by private individuals and did not allow them to be removed or destroyed. The same can be said of sculptures that adorned private buildings.
Defining cultural heritage requires that we understand the concept. As Lowenthal points out, cultural heritage is not simply a collection of objects and traditions from the past, but is the result of a selection process that is based on memory and oblivion. Every human society is constantly choosing what to keep and what to discard, and this process is a result of political and cultural reasons. Those who seek to protect their heritage may be promoting a broader awareness of their values.
The acquisition of art in an inappropriate context is damaging to the source communities. For example, a British nobleman smuggled thousands of manuscripts out of the city of Timbuktu during the civil war, but the Hill Museum and Manuscript Library was able to preserve them through the digitization process. It is a testament to the importance of preserving cultural heritage for future generations. The problem with the current practice of collecting art is that it is expensive and takes up valuable storage space.
The destruction and desecration of cultural heritage is a global issue. Attacks on cultural heritage have become increasingly common. There have been reports of systematic destruction of ancient and medieval cultural objects in war-torn regions. In some countries, this has become a key security and humanitarian challenge. Cultural diversity should be protected because it contributes to the development of social cohesion and peace. Respect for cultural diversity is essential for national dialogue. The destruction of cultural heritage threatens the stability of societies and the security of individuals.
A central question for cultural heritage scholars is who is responsible for protecting it and who should be able to make it. While it is widely accepted that heritage objects belong to the people who created them, many scholars dispute the concept of ownership and normative agency. While the creation of cultural heritage is a shared responsibility, the individual is central to it. It is a violation of normative agency when an individual is denied resources and opportunities to create their own cultural heritage.
In addition, dislocation of cultural heritage is also a serious concern. Looting, war, and colonial practices may cause the dislocation of works of art, leading to a question of where these works belong. However, a universal museum can be a powerful vehicle for preserving and sharing these works of art. Many tourists and students can view these works of art. Its importance cannot be overstated. This article will discuss how the preservation of cultural heritage can help communities and protect their identity.