Cultural heritage is a broad concept that encompasses artifacts (paintings, drawings, prints, mosaics, sculptures), historic monuments and buildings, archaeological sites, towns, underwater heritage and natural environments. It also refers to the social, cultural, economic, political and technological aspects of these objects and places.
The definition of cultural heritage has evolved through the years and it now includes not only physical items but also expressions and beliefs, which represent value systems, traditions, lifestyles and identities. It also encompasses the connection between cultural heritage and society as a whole, including social cohesion, community and consensus.
Research on cultural heritage has a long tradition in the humanities. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, antiquarians, historians, philologists, archaeologists and ethnographers focused on documenting, studying and preserving the past. The emergence of museums, libraries and archives and the rise of professionalization in the field in the 20th century led to a much wider and more focused interest in the subject.
Today, scholars work on a wide range of topics and methods related to culture and its preservation, with special emphasis on the protection of natural and built heritage from damage caused by climate change, environmental pollution, deforestation and other threats. These issues are studied with a broad scope by researchers from the humanities, social sciences and the natural sciences.
Various kinds of experts are needed to preserve cultural heritage, including conservators, chemists, artists, architects, biologists and forensic anthropologists. They may be responsible for ensuring the safekeeping and conservation of collections or working with local officials to develop policies on preventing damage.
Intangible cultural heritage is also preserved through archiving and digitizing the written records of communities. This includes oral histories and stories passed down from generation to generation. As people migrate and change civilisations, the stories and experiences of past generations often become lost.
A variety of societal stakeholders and institutions play a role in the preservation of cultural heritage, including government agencies, NGOs, cultural associations, museums, private individuals and businesses. In addition, the broader community may advocate for the preservation of their own cultural heritage by donating or selling their heirlooms and antiques to fund projects to restore historical buildings or monuments.
The scholarly production on cultural heritage has grown significantly over the last decades, and many articles are now published in international journals. However, a large proportion of these publications are not recognized by prestigious publication indexes and are not considered high quality, which leads to the question: what can be done to improve the production of cultural heritage scholarship?
One way of doing this is to identify the bibliometric features of these publications and to map their collaboration patterns. In this way, we can reveal the hidden relationships between authors, institutions and countries that shape the progress of research on culture and its repercussions for society.
This bibliometric analysis was conducted by using the Web of Science Core Collection to study the published articles on the topic (TS) ‘cultural heritage’ between 2003 and 2022. The results show that the indexed research on this subject is mainly Eurocentric, with a large portion of articles coming from European countries. The data were analyzed by using the WOS tools and VOSviewer software to visualize the collaboration patterns between authors, institutions and countries.