Cultural heritage encompasses the artefacts, monuments and sites of a particular culture that have been recognised for their historical, artistic, scientific, aesthetic or ethnological significance. It also includes a range of intangible aspects such as language, traditions and festivals that form an integral part of a culture. The definition of cultural heritage is wide and varies from country to country, reflecting the diversity of cultures worldwide.
Cultural heritage is a very important asset for tourism, providing both economic and socio-cultural benefits, which are often overlooked in the planning of sustainable development strategies. The preservation of cultural heritage is also an essential factor for maintaining a sense of place and identity, which is becoming increasingly important as the world becomes more populated, globalized and interconnected.
The preservation of cultural heritage is a complex task that requires cooperation across disciplines and sectors to achieve successful outcomes. While the majority of research on cultural heritage is conducted in the field of humanities, there are significant contributions from other areas such as natural sciences and engineering, and social sciences and humanities. The scholarly interest in cultural heritage has grown significantly over the past two decades, as reflected by the growing number of publications and citations.
There are many reasons for this growing interest in cultural heritage research. One reason is that the protection of cultural heritage has become an urgent international concern due to the increasing threats facing it, such as natural disasters, the loss of archaeological and historical sites from climate change, the impact of mass tourism, and conflict and terrorism (as demonstrated by the destruction of Palmyra).
Another reason is that research into cultural heritage can contribute to the understanding of our own culture, helping us understand the world we live in and how we came to be. As a result, the study of cultural heritage is increasingly cross-disciplinary. For example, researchers in anthropology, history and archaeology are working together more frequently to preserve cultural heritage sites.
A third reason for the growth in interest in cultural heritage is that it can help solve some real world problems. For example, the preservation of historic buildings and structures is an important part of urban revitalization programs. These projects can help cities rethink their urban design and create sustainable neighborhoods with a mix of uses that promote the local economy, environment and quality of life.
In terms of specific programs, arts programming is the largest category for nonprofit cultural heritage organizations. This is followed by education, food and agriculture, and human services. Finally, religious and ethnic studies play an important role in many cultural heritage organizations. While these programs provide significant revenue, they also serve a critical purpose in building and sustaining communities. In an age of shifting populations and rapid change, nonprofit cultural heritage organizations are more important than ever before in helping individuals and families find a sense of community. They help to preserve and celebrate their shared experiences, traditions, and identities, both the good and the bad.