When we think of cultural heritage, we tend to imagine artifacts like paintings or statues, historic places or buildings, and archaeological sites. However, the concept has expanded over time to include a wider range of objects and sites that are recognized for their aesthetic, scientific, social and symbolic value by a society. The idea of preserving and protecting these objects for future generations is one of the main driving forces behind the development of the concept.
Often, the cultural heritage is preserved not for its own sake, but to give people the opportunity to experience it. This is an important aspect of sustainability, as it can generate income and help fund the preservation efforts. It can also provide a sense of identity for those who visit or experience it. This is particularly true for museums, which can act as a portal to other cultures and times for visitors.
But preserving and protecting these items are not easy tasks, especially in an increasingly globalized world. In addition to the financial challenges, cultural heritage is vulnerable to environmental factors and human activities such as climate change, terrorism, war, or natural disasters. The protection of these heritage items requires a multidisciplinary approach to research, management and conservation.
It is important to understand how cultural heritage is valued in order to make informed decisions about its preservation and conservation. This is particularly the case for tangible cultural heritage, such as buildings and historical places, but also for intangible heritage like languages, traditions, and knowledge. To determine these values, there are various methods that can be used, such as stated preference (SP) methods.
SP is a technique that can be applied to different settings, such as museums and other heritage institutions, and it provides a way to measure how much people value cultural heritage. It can be used to evaluate the effect of specific policies or projects, and it can even help identify the best ways to preserve certain types of heritage.
The study of cultural heritage is a rich and rewarding area of research that brings together many disciplines, including archaeology, history, art history, and sociology. It can also be a valuable tool in promoting international understanding and cooperation. This is because cultural heritage encompasses not only the physical, tangible aspects of a culture, but also the intangible values and beliefs that define it.
In the past, most people who worked in this field came from a background in archaeology or art history. Although this kind of training remains critical, it is becoming clear that sustainable preservation of cultural heritage will require more than just academic expertise in these disciplines. It will also require skills in finding funding, managing diverse groups of people with conflicting interests, and planning for the long term. This is why we need more professionals trained in the fields of heritage protection and management.