Matagorda County Museum Our Blog The Importance of Cultural Heritage

The Importance of Cultural Heritage


When the term cultural heritage is used, it often brings to mind artifacts like paintings and prints, sculptures and architectural monuments, historical buildings and archaeological sites. However, it has evolved to include all the tangible and intangible evidence of human creativity and expression as well as the natural landscape that is part of a community’s identity. It includes the way of life, language, traditions and religion that are passed from generation to generation and the sense of place that is a result of the landscape and the history that is reflected there.

One of the main reasons that cultural heritage is important is because it is a source of pride and identity for communities and nations. It can contribute to soft location factors such as a high quality of life and sense of belonging, even though it is rarely a major determinant for the decision to move or invest in a particular location.

Another important reason is that it helps us understand the past and learn from it. But there are also many challenges, especially when it comes to the preservation and protection of cultural heritage. The most obvious challenge is that it can be difficult to balance the interests of individual owners and public ownership, for example when a work of art has both private and public value. This was the problem faced by the ancient Romans when they established that works of art could be considered part of a city’s patrimony, even if they were privately owned.

It is also important to consider how cultural heritage is presented and communicated. There are a variety of approaches to this, from expert assessments such as the’statements of significance’ attached to outstanding heritage properties by UNESCO, to studies of how individuals and communities perceive and associate characteristics with their own heritage properties.

The latter approach is particularly useful when it is intended to promote the preservation of cultural heritage in the context of local values and needs. For example, presenting heritage values in relation to contrasting or comparable contemporary values is a highly effective way of increasing their perceived importance.

Finally, it is worth mentioning that in spite of the great potential for economic benefits, cultural heritage can be vulnerable to new types of threats. These include the destruction or looting of heritage property due to conflict and instability, the loss of cultural awareness as a result of globalization, and the increasing commoditization of cultural heritage through the use of digital representations.

Finally, it is important to note that cultural heritage activities are often undertaken by a wide range of organizations outside the culture sector. For example, educational and religion-related organizations are often involved in the expressive aspects of cultural heritage by sponsoring dance and music performances. Similarly, community improvement and capacity-building organizations often use cultural heritage activities to build strong bonds within their communities by sponsoring neighborhood festivals. This is particularly true for organizations that specialize in ethnic and folk arts.