Culture is a precious resource for people and communities to maintain. It is not just ancient archaeological sites, but also buildings, collections of antiquities and artifacts, and the lifestyles of contemporary communities. Many of these resources are recognized by different social groups as part of their identity, but their preservation and protection is at risk from benign neglect, devastating accidents, climate change, and other factors. Here are some ways in which culture can be preserved.
Culture is both physical and immaterial, both innate and acquired. Some cultures define cultural heritage as archaeological sites, artifacts, and buildings. Other cultures define it as all evidence of human creativity and expression. These include the arts, cuisine, and performing arts. The term “cultural heritage” has expanded beyond this to encompass the natural environment and the art forms that make up a culture. Some communities identify themselves with their landscape, for example. In many cases, however, the cultural heritage of a community is not a tangible object, but rather a cultural memory, a cultural practice, a lifestyle, or a way of life.
Cultural heritage is the product of a selection process involving memory and oblivion. Every human society chooses a cultural heritage through a selection process. Some of its most treasured works may be objectionable, while others may be immoral. Cultural heritage literature, such as those inscribed in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, may be controversial or offensive. For these reasons, advocates of cultural integrity often face criticism for making wrong assumptions about a particular culture.
Despite the importance of preserving the physical evidence of human existence, art and heritage is vulnerable to destruction. War and looting have resulted in the looting of thousands of manuscripts and other cultural artifacts from ancient societies. Despite the potential for destruction, preserving cultural heritage remains an important and essential part of human survival. The Hill Museum and Manuscript Library has digitized these manuscripts for future generations. The museum is an important source of information about human life in a developing society.
The role of cultural heritage in healing after conflict cannot be denied. For example, in Japan, preserving cultural assets is an important part of healing and reconciling the country with its past. During the Second World War, Japan fought to protect its cultural treasures. After the war, the ruins of Auschwitz became museums and memorials. As a result, the Japanese government began protecting their cultural heritage in order to prevent its destruction. The museum’s mission to protect cultural heritage became a major factor in the peace and prosperity of the nation.
Another major cause of destruction of cultural heritage is armed conflict and social persecution. In addition to the burning of historical manuscripts in Timbuktu, ISIS destroyed Palmyra and looted ancient treasures. In other countries, the British government has banned statues of slave traders and colonizers from their countries. This issue is still debated in international courts and organizations. However, armed conflict has been an increasing concern in the face of cultural heritage protection, and the threat to it must not be underestimated.