The concept of cultural heritage emerged through long historical processes. It is based on diverse and continually evolving value systems. The idea of cultural heritage refers to shared past and present experiences, as well as societal expectations of the future. Access to cultural heritage is increasingly seen as a right and a valuable resource for economic development. While cultural heritage is an important aspect of the human experience, many people have long had an interest in collecting it. Preservation and interpretation of the past are important parts of cultural heritage conservation.
The concept of cultural heritage usually conjures up images of a single society, but cultural boundaries are not always clearly defined. Artists, scientists, craftsmen, and musicians all learn from people from various cultures. Pablo Picasso, for example, studied African masks and painted them. Freed African-American slaves constructed plantation mansions modeled after neoclassical style. Cultural heritage is not only a source of pride and beauty for a community, it is an economic driver of social and economic prosperity.
Many of the challenges of preserving cultural heritage involve the balance between private and public rights. Many ancient cultures regarded privately owned works of art as shared cultural property and refused to remove them. The ancient Romans recognized this value, and did not allow their sculptures to be taken down. In the modern world, the UNESCO World Heritage Convention and Hague Convention have also been used to support cultural internationalism. However, cultural internationalism raises ethical issues, including the issue of preserving cultural heritage.
Some of the challenges in preserving cultural heritage include its denial and deliberate destruction. In other places, the preservation of cultural heritage is threatened by conflict, political movements, and distorted interpretations. Cultural integrity advocates have been accused of misguiding assumptions about cultural practices. In many cases, the definition of cultural heritage can be complex and even contradictory. The best way to define cultural heritage is to ask yourself: how do you protect the traditions of those who lived in it?
While many discussions of cultural heritage are based on common assumptions, examining cultural heritage in a more nuanced way can yield important conceptual questions. Some heritage scholars are wary of process-oriented heritage at the expense of traditional material concerns. On the other hand, other cultural perspectives may challenge the official heritage and its values. The distinction between official and unofficial heritage can help us make sense of the differences between the two. The following subsections describe some of the questions related to the definition of cultural heritage.
Another important issue in the definition of cultural heritage is the eradication of indigenous practices and languages. In some cases, colonial powers systematically destroyed indigenous languages and practices. They often forced their native population to become assimilate through residential schools and other forms of cultural misrepresentation. As a result, many Native American boarding schools were established to assimilate their youth into a Euro-American cultural environment. It’s important to respect the indigenous culture and its cultural practices.