Matagorda County Museum Our Blog What is Cultural Heritage?

What is Cultural Heritage?


Cultural heritage includes all the things that form a people’s identity, such as their history and traditions. It can be both tangible (things that you can touch, like art or buildings) and intangible (things that cannot be seen but are important to a culture, such as language or dance). It is the collective expression of a society’s values, beliefs and practices.

There is a broad range of cultural heritage items around the world, from historical monuments to living cultures like traditional music and dance, oral histories and social practices. It can also include landscapes, cultural parks and historic towns and centres. The World Heritage Convention offers a variety of definitions for heritage sites, including works of man or the combined works of nature and men, areas that represent cultural landscapes and archaeological sites. These sites can be either cultural or natural and satisfy one or more of the Convention’s three criteria: Outstanding Universal Value, significance in terms of human settlements and a relationship with the past, and integrity.

Some cultural heritage is well-known (such as the Eiffel Tower or the Statue of Liberty), while other heritage is less obvious and more difficult to find out about. UNESCO has developed an online resource called the Cultural Heritage Memory, which contains thousands of records about cultural heritage sites from all over the world. It includes photos, maps and descriptions of places as well as information on their conservation status. The website allows people to search by country, region and theme.

The definition of what is considered to be cultural heritage can vary greatly depending on the individual or institution. What a government or museum may consider to be cultural heritage at one point in time may change with political or economic changes, the passage of time, or other factors. What an individual considers to be part of their own cultural heritage may also change over time, due to their personal experiences or societal context.

It is the responsibility of communities to identify their own heritage and to manage it. This involves a combination of activities: maintenance (continuous protective care), preservation, restoration and reconstruction, and adaption. It is important for communities to actively participate in this process, as it is only by doing so that they can be sure their heritage will continue to exist into the future.

Some of the challenges that can be faced when protecting and sustaining cultural heritage include lack of funds and resources, conflict and terrorism, climate change, the impact of tourism, and the need for new technologies to allow us to preserve and access our heritage in innovative ways. However, some of these challenges can be mitigated by encouraging the sharing and exchange of knowledge between cultural heritage professionals from different countries and regions to promote more effective partnerships and cooperation.