The term cultural heritage is often used to refer to tangible and intangible expressions of a society’s history. It can include monuments, buildings, landscapes, archaeological sites, historical places, and traces of daily life in the past. It can also refer to a sense of belonging and community. It is important for students to be able to understand the importance of their culture and where they came from. Having an understanding of this will help them to appreciate the beauty of what they have and to make sure it is protected for generations to come.
A student’s cultural heritage might be their family name, ethnicity, a language spoken at home or school, a religious belief, or a favorite place of interest. In addition to these tangible aspects of a culture, there are also intangible cultural heritage elements like memories, stories, and traditions. This type of heritage is important for the individual to preserve and protect, just as they might protect a historical site or monument.
Intangible cultural heritage might also include a sense of place, such as the countryside or specific natural features that have historic associations, such as the plain at Runnymede in England, where King John signed the Magna Carta in 1215. Intangible cultural heritage might also be a set of historical and social values that are embodied in a region, such as the way people treat each other, the way they use natural resources, or the way they celebrate their history.
It is possible that intangible heritage can even have economic value. This is usually based on a calculation that includes various categories of value, such as use value, option value, and nonuse value. The resulting total economic value of a cultural heritage object or location is then compared with the cost to create it and its maintenance. If the total economic value is higher, then it is a better investment to keep and maintain than the object or location would be otherwise.
The preservation of cultural heritage is a complex task and involves many different factors. Some threats to heritage preservation are climate change, the impact of tourism, and lack of proper management. Many cultural heritage items are being destroyed or lost due to these reasons.
There are many nonprofit cultural heritage organizations throughout the United States that serve a variety of communities, including cities and towns; rural areas; regions like the South, West, or New England; and both long-standing and newer immigrant communities. These organizations are essential to helping individuals and families keep their heritage alive and pass it on for future generations. Without this, the world would be a much less beautiful and interesting place. The destruction of cultural heritage by nonstate armed groups, militias, or invading armies is a clear threat to the well-being of all of humanity and should be considered a form of cultural and social genocide. Using a more accurate valuation of the total economic value of cultural heritage can help to focus international attention on this issue and encourage greater protection of both intangible and tangible cultural heritage.