Matagorda County Museum Our Blog What is Cultural Heritage?

What is Cultural Heritage?

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Cultural heritage is a combination of inherited ideas, values and traditions that are consolidated over time and that reflect the cultural history of a specific place. In addition to artistic cultural heritage (like ruins or monuments) and traditional activities, it also encompasses the natural environment – especially the flora and fauna of a region or natural landscape, which is known as biodiversity. The selection of which objects, monuments and natural areas are preserved creates a cultural legacy and shapes the development of various cultural narratives and societal consensus about past and present.

What is considered as cultural heritage often changes over time, depending on societal consensus about what constitutes a part of a culture and what shouldn’t be kept. It may also be influenced by political, economic or religious factors or pressures. Cultural heritage includes both tangible and intangible elements, but the latter are more common than the former, as they are more difficult to define. The concept of intangible heritage has also changed over time and may include a range of things like oral tradition, language and community bonds.

The term cultural heritage is most commonly associated with arts, historical monuments and buildings and archaeological sites. However, it can also refer to cultural landscapes, cultural routes, historic towns and town centres and heritage canals. The list of cultural heritage sites that are considered World Heritage Sites is defined by the UNESCO, and this definition can be broadened to include natural landmarks as well as the combined effect of man and nature.

As a result, the notion of cultural heritage is complex and diverse, with overlapping concepts, definitions and meanings. It is also a highly emotive issue, bringing up a range of controversial topics including contested history and conflicting stories, ownership, cultural imperialism, repatriation of human remains and the value of cultural heritage.

Unlike monetary wealth, cultural heritage has the potential to be passed down through generations and have emotional and spiritual value. This is why it is so important to preserve and protect our cultural heritage. The first step in finding out your own cultural heritage is to look at your backgrounds. Are you from a certain ethnicity, religion or family line? Does your family still speak a certain language or practice certain traditions?

Identifying your own cultural heritage can be a very personal process. Whether it’s an artistic masterpiece or your family’s secret recipe, knowing what makes you unique can give you a sense of pride and identity that can help to boost your self-esteem. It’s not always easy to uncover your cultural heritage, but there are some steps you can take to discover it.