Matagorda County Museum Our Blog The Concept of Cultural Heritage

The Concept of Cultural Heritage

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Cultural heritage consists of the monuments, town sites, archeological sites, works of art, traditions and other elements that express and transmit a specific culture. This includes the knowledge and values transmitted through oral history and intangible heritage such as dances, music and theatre, customs, representations, rituals and traditional craftsmanship.

It is a complex concept that arises out of the selection process by which human societies continually choose what to preserve for posterity and what not. Eventually, these choices become the foundation of a cultural heritage that consists of “tangible” and “intangible” elements that are recognised as having an exceptional universal value and belong to all humanity.

This concept of a cultural heritage has been developed by a long historicaldevelopment in which different values were attached to monuments, buildings, works of art and the natural environment, each with its own particular importance for the society that owned it. It was only after the systematic destruction or loss of these objects that the idea came to be that a cultural heritage had an extraordinary universal value and therefore needed to be protected and conserved.

The concept of a cultural heritage also reflects the fact that cultural boundaries are not as clear as we might think, and that people learn from each other even if they are part of different cultures that may be separated by geographical distance or time. This is reflected in the way that artists, architects, craftsmen and musicians of all cultures draw inspiration from each other, from the use of Japanese prints by Paul Gauguin, for example, or African masks and tango dancing by Pablo Picasso, or the Viennese coffee house culture in Liberian homes built by freed African-American enslaved people inspired by neoclassical architecture.

However, protecting a cultural heritage is not as easy as it might seem. The destruction of cultural property can be a consequence of economic factors (lack of maintenance and funding); environmental, such as the impact of climate change; or political or even terrorist actions, for instance the destruction of the ancient city of Palmyra by ISIS in Syria.

A growing number of countries are starting to recognise the need for a national policy on cultural heritage, but it is often difficult to establish an integrated system to protect it. For example, it is not always possible to identify the owners of a particular work of art or cultural site; the transfer of cultural property between states is hampered by issues such as lack of funds and security concerns; and domestic laws are insufficiently clear on issues such as ownership and terrorism.

The main goal of Transkribus is to facilitate the preservation and dissemination of cultural heritage by deciphering and digitising historic documents, making them available online and facilitating their use for educational and tourism purposes. Moreover, we are dedicated to the promotion of cultural awareness in all communities by offering them tools that allow them to explore and share their own heritage as well as that of other cultures.