The term cultural heritage usually conjures up images of artifacts and monuments, but it has recently broadened to include all evidence of human creativity and expression. This includes photographs, documents, books and manuscripts, music, dance, art, instruments and much more.
The concept of cultural heritage has emerged through complex historical processes and is constantly evolving to accommodate new and changing values, ideas and interpretations by different groups of people. It also entails a process of selection, which determines what should be preserved and what should not.
Cultural heritage assets such as historical buildings, archeological sites and monuments are a legacy from our past that lend a sense of place, identity and aesthetic wellbeing to local populations (M. Cassar, 2009; Phillips, 2015).
However, they are prone to decay and change due to various environmental factors such as weathering processes and climate change. These changes affect their physical, chemical and biological structures, as well as their aesthetic and functional properties.
Moreover, they can be negatively affected by the loss of social cohesion and identity due to the fact that they have traditionally been used to define identities and establish consensus about the past. It is therefore important to preserve them and protect them from future threats such as a loss of cultural practices, a weakening of historical knowledge or the impact of conflict and disasters.
This type of heritage is an important element in communities’ sense of identity, their decision-making and their overall well-being. It also has a direct effect on how societies interact with the environment and respond to natural hazards. Studies of historic modes of adaptation to floods, for example, can help modern-day communities build resilience and reduce the risk of damage caused by natural disasters.