ⓘ Cultural heritage


ⓘ Cultural heritage

Cultural heritage is the legacy of physical artifacts and intangible attributes of a group or society that is inherited from past generations. Not all legacies of past generations are "heritage", rather heritage is a product of selection by society.

Cultural heritage includes tangible culture, intangible culture, and natural heritage including culturally significant landscapes, and biodiversity.

The deliberate act of keeping cultural and heritage from the present for the future is known as preservation American English or conservation British English, which cultural and historical ethnic museums and cultural centers promote, though these terms may have more specific or technical meaning in the same contexts in the other dialect. Preserved heritage has become an anchor of the global tourism industry, a major contributor economic value to local communities.


1. The ethics and rationale of cultural preservation

Objects are a part of the study of human history because they provide a concrete basis for ideas, and can validate them. Their preservation demonstrates a recognition of the necessity of the past and of the things that tell its story. In The Past is a Foreign Country, David Lowenthal observes that preserved objects also validate memories. While digital acquisition techniques can provide a technological solution that is able to acquire the shape and the appearance of artifacts with an unprecedented precision in human history, the actuality of the object, as opposed to a reproduction, draws people in and gives them a literal way of touching the past. This unfortunately poses a danger as places and things are damaged by the hands of tourists, the light required to display them, and other risks of making an object known and available. The reality of this risk reinforces the fact that all artifacts are in a constant state of chemical transformation, so that what is considered to be preserved is actually changing – it is never as it once was. Similarly changing is the value each generation may place on the past and on the artifacts that link it to the past.

Classical civilizations, and especially the Indian, have attributed supreme importance to the preservation of tradition. Its central idea was that social institutions, scientific knowledge and technological applications need to use a "heritage" as a "resource". Using contemporary language, we could say that ancient Indians considered, as social resources, both economic assets like natural resources and their exploitation structure and factors promoting social integration like institutions for the preservation of knowledge and for the maintenance of civil order. Ethics considered that what had been inherited should not be consumed, but should be handed over, possibly enriched, to successive generations. This was a moral imperative for all, except in the final life stage of sannyasa.

What one generation considers "cultural heritage" may be rejected by the next generation, only to be revived by a subsequent generation.


2.1. Types of heritage Cultural property

Cultural property includes the physical, or "tangible" cultural heritage, such as artworks. These are generally split into two groups of movable and immovable heritage. Immovable heritage includes building so, large industrial installations, residential projects or other historic places and monuments. Moveable heritage includes books, documents, moveable artworks, machines, clothing, and other artifacts, that are considered worthy of preservation for the future. These include objects significant to the archaeology, architecture, science or technology of a specified culture.

Aspects and disciplines of the preservation and conservation of tangible culture include:

  • Museology
  • Art conservation
  • Film preservation
  • Archaeological conservation
  • Phonograph record preservation
  • Architectural conservation
  • Archival science
  • Conservation cultural heritage
  • Digital preservation

2.2. Types of heritage Intangible culture

"Intangible cultural heritage" consists of non-physical aspects of a particular culture, more often maintained by social customs during a specific period in history. The concept includes the ways and means of behavior in a society, and the often formal rules for operating in a particular cultural climate. These include social values and traditions, customs and practices, aesthetic and spiritual beliefs, artistic expression, language and other aspects of human activity. The significance of physical artifacts can be interpreted as an act against the backdrop of socioeconomic, political, ethnic, religious and philosophical values of a particular group of people. Naturally, intangible cultural heritage is more difficult to preserve than physical objects.

Aspects of the preservation and conservation of cultural intangibles include:

  • language preservation
  • oral history
  • folklore


2.3. Types of heritage Natural heritage

"Natural heritage" is also an important part of a societys heritage, encompassing the countryside and natural environment, including flora and fauna, scientifically known as biodiversity, as well as geological elements, scientifically known as geodiversity. These kind of heritage sites often serve as an important component in a countrys tourist industry, attracting many visitors from abroad as well as locally. Heritage can also include cultural landscapes natural features that may have cultural attributes.

Aspects of the preservation and conservation of natural heritage include:

  • Rare breeds conservation
  • Heirloom plants

3. World heritage movement

Significant was the Convention Concerning the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage that was adopted by the General Conference of UNESCO in 1972. As of 2011, there are 936 World Heritage Sites: 725 cultural, 183 natural, and 28 mixed properties, in 153 countries. Each of these sites is considered important to the international community.

The underwater cultural heritage is protected by the UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage. This convention is a legal instrument helping states parties to improve the protection of their underwater cultural heritage.

In addition, UNESCO has begun designating masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights sitting as part of the United Nations Economic and Social Council with article 15 of its Covenant had sought to instill the principles under which cultural heritage is protected as part of a basic human right.

Key international documents and bodies include:

  • Athens Charter, 1931
  • The Blue Shield, a network of committees of dedicated individuals across the world that is" committed to the protection of the world’s cultural property, and is concerned with the protection of cultural and natural heritage, tangible and intangible, in the event of armed conflict, natural- or human-made disaster.”
  • Roerich Pact, 1935
  • Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, 1954, with a definition of cultural heritage item adopted by some national law
  • Barcelona Charter, 2002 regarding maritime vessel preservation
  • Venice Charter, 1964
  • International Institute for Conservation

4. National and regional heritage movements

Much of heritage preservation work is done at the national, regional, or local levels of society. Various national and regional regimes include:

  • Australia
Burra Charter Heritage Overlay in Victoria, Australia
  • Brazil
National Institute of Historic and Artistic Heritage
  • Canada
Heritage conservation in Canada
  • Chile
National Monuments Council Chile
  • China
State Administration of Cultural Heritage
  • Egypt
Supreme Council of Antiquities
  • Estonia
Ministry of Culture Estonia National Heritage Board Estonia
  • Ghana
Ghana’s material cultural heritage
  • Honduras
Secretary of State for Culture, Arts and Sports
  • Hong Kong
Heritage conservation in Hong Kong
  • India
Ministry of Culture India National Archives of India Archaeological Survey of India Anthropological Survey of India Culture of India National Museum Institute of the History of Art, Conservation and Museology List of World Heritage Sites in India Indian Heritage Cities Network, Mysore Heritage structures in Hyderabad
  • Iran
Cultural Heritage, Handcrafts and Tourism Organization
  • Japan
Cultural Properties of Japan
  • Kenya
  • Macedonia
Institute for Protection of Cultural Monuments
  • Malaysia
The National Heritage Act
  • Namibia
National Heritage Council of Namibia National Monuments Council
  • New Zealand
New Zealand Historic Places Trust
  • Pakistan
Pakistan Monument
  • Philippines
National Commission for Culture and the Arts National Historical Commission of the Philippines
  • Poland
National Ossolinski Institute
  • South Africa
South African Heritage Resources Agency Provincial heritage resources authorities Amafa aKwaZulu-Natali Heritage Western Cape Northern Cape Heritage Resources Authority National Monuments Council Historical Monuments Commission
  • United Kingdom
Conservation in the United Kingdom English Heritage English Heritage Archive National Trust
  • United States of America
National Register of Historic Places
  • Zimbabwe
National Monuments of Zimbabwe


5. Issues in cultural heritage

Broad philosophical, technical, and political issues and dimensions of cultural heritage include:

  • Heritage tourism
  • Cultural heritage repatriation
  • Cultural heritage management
  • Virtual heritage
  • Cultural property law

6. Management of cultural heritage

Issues in cultural heritage management include:

  • Exhibition of cultural heritage objects
  • Radiography of cultural objects
  • Objects conservator
  • Storage of cultural heritage objects