Cultural heritage is a broad concept that includes everything that has shaped human history and culture in one way or another. It can be tangible, such as artifacts and archaeological sites, or intangible, such as traditional music and dance, rituals, performances, social observations, and traditions that are passed down from generation to generation.
It is both a shared and individual experience, but also a dynamic and ever-changing process. This is why conservation and preservation of cultural heritage can be so important, because if something were to disappear, it would be lost forever.
The most basic definition of cultural heritage is: “anything that gives meaning to life, that is part of our heritage and that we recognise as belonging to us.”
Many people assume that when they hear the term ‘cultural heritage’, it means historic buildings, monuments or archeological sites – but it can also refer to more intangible aspects of a community’s identity. This can include traditional crafts, oral traditions, performance art, rituals, festivals or practices that relate to the environment – all of which represent vital and unique parts of our shared human experience.
Intangible heritage is a challenge for conservation and preservation because it tends to be harder to save than tangible objects or buildings. This is because intangible culture is often impacted by migration, modernisation, civilisational change and natural disasters.
What’s more, it can be difficult to define what is considered intangible and what is not – but the best way of protecting cultural heritage is to make sure that people are aware of their own heritage. This awareness can help to ensure that people are not simply seeing buildings or artifacts, but are actively participating in the preservation of these items.
Those who are interested in preserving their heritage may be able to get involved through volunteer work, fundraising or by becoming a member of an organization that focuses on the preservation of cultural heritage. There are numerous organizations and charities that focus on this area, so it is important to find a group that is the right fit for you and your interests.
You can help to protect your own culture by being aware of the dangers that exist and refusing to participate in any activity that is potentially harmful to cultural property. This can be as simple as refusing to purchase from online resale sites and questionable auctions or as complicated as becoming a vocal advocate for cultural heritage through your own activism.
Cultural heritage is a critical element of our identity and the lives we lead. It can be a source of strength, comfort and inspiration. It can be a tool for decision making and a driving force for innovation, creativity and economic development.
The protection of cultural heritage is a global concern, with governments, international organizations and NGOs focusing on the issue. UNESCO, for example, has developed a wide range of programs and policies that are designed to promote the understanding of culture and preserve it for future generations.