Matagorda County Museum Our Blog The Importance of Cultural Heritage

The Importance of Cultural Heritage

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cultural heritage

A nation’s cultural heritage is central to its identity and is passed on through historic places, monuments, works of art, and traditions. It is also the physical and non-physical characteristics that distinguish a people from others: languages, customs and practices, beliefs, values, foods and cuisine, art, folklore, and even architecture. It is a living entity that is constantly evolving, responding to a community’s religious, political, and social environment, but it provides a sense of identity and continuity.

This is why UNESCO’s Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) recognises that it can play an important role in the development and consolidation of the economic, social, and cultural aspects of a society. The definition of the term “intangible cultural heritage” is quite broad: it includes non-physical aspects such as values, beliefs, customs and traditions that are transmitted orally, by word of mouth, in written form, or through art, and it can include folklore and religion.

The ICH is an important factor for the development of a country and it can help to promote the sustainable use of natural resources, improve human health, enhance economic growth and competitiveness, and foster a sense of belonging in a particular place and time. It is also a tool for strengthening the capacities of communities to adapt and face change.

However, the ICH is under growing threats from multiple sources. These threats can be economical, such as lack of funding to maintain and conserve a cultural site; environmental, such as a loss of habitat; or political, such as war and conflict.

In addition to the aforementioned issues, other factors that affect the preservation of cultural heritage are: lack of management and monitoring, uncontrolled developmental activities close to or on heritage sites, lack of demarked buffer zones, insufficient stakeholder involvement and awareness, poor conservation practice, unequal distribution of benefits between the community and government, illegal trafficking and smuggling of cultural objects, natural damage/deterioration, and conflict or terrorism.

These are just some of the issues facing the preservation of cultural heritage, but there are also efforts to protect and celebrate culture. The City of San Francisco, for example, is investing in community planning efforts in neighborhoods like Japantown and Western SoMa to ensure the future of these unique cultural traditions.