Cultural Heritage – A Valuable Resource That is Shared Across Societies

Cultural heritage is a valuable resource that is shared across societies. This includes art, traditions and beliefs.

It can even include a town, a group of buildings or a precisely delineated natural area of outstanding universal value. But it can also include negative and harmful traditions or beliefs. Be the person in your family who breaks cycles of abuse and lets go of false beliefs.

What is it?

Cultural heritage is the art, memorabilia, values and traditions of a society that can be either tangible or intangible. Tangible cultural heritage includes movable and immobile physical artefacts as well as buildings and archaeological sites of outstanding universal value that have symbolic, historic, artistic, ethnological or anthropological value.

Intangible cultural heritage encompasses the expressions, practices, beliefs, knowledge and skills that communities and groups – as well as individuals – recognize as their own. It is a vital part of people’s sense of identity and community and can give them a sense of continuity and belonging.

It can be hard to define because what one person may consider their heritage could be different than another, depending on factors such as social value systems, personal interests and beliefs, privilege or marginalization.


As a result of natural and human factors, cultural heritage is often at risk of being damaged or destroyed. Cultural heritage properties like monuments, buildings, archaeological structures and museums are subject to vandalism, theft, lack of funding for their conservation or preservation, inappropriate conservation techniques, climatic change, and biodeterioration due to microorganisms.

Cultural heritage can also be material, such as artwork, musical instruments, and architectural designs that have an outstanding universal value from the historical, artistic, commemorative, aesthetic, ethnological or anthropological point of view. The UNESCO definition of cultural heritage in 1972 included only tangible aspects of culture but the 2003 convention expanded its scope to include intangible heritage as well.


When you think of cultural heritage, you might think of art, monuments or buildings, but the concept encompasses much more. The intangible aspect of cultural heritage refers to traditions and living expressions passed on from one generation to the next.

Social practices, rituals and festive events are an essential part of communities and foster a sense of belonging and continuity. Indigenous knowledge, such as medicinal plants and traditional farming techniques, represents accumulated wisdom over generations and contributes to sustainable living.

Traditional craftsmanship is also an important manifestation of intangible cultural heritage. Its bearers pass on the skills to future generations and evolve their crafts through theory and practice, transforming their material cultural heritage into something new that will become their living heritage in the future.


Heritage can be intangible, such as a family tradition or an activity that evokes positive feelings and memories. It can also be tangible, like heirlooms or locations that have special meaning to individuals and their families.

Even if people do not intend to visit particular cultural heritage sites, they may feel impoverished if those sites are destroyed. This is a type of nonuse value that some analysts have referred to as existence value.

Historic cities and other cultural heritage sites are often vulnerable to natural disasters and erosion; they can also become the focus of purposeful attacks from militias, gangs, or invading armies. These attacks are often described as cultural or social genocide, and they can cause losses that far exceed the physical damage to monuments or the disappearance of artifacts.


A key aspect of sustainability is not just protecting and conserving heritage objects but also maintaining the spirit of the place. The character and sense of place of historic cities are in many cases imperiled because of lack of resources, and in some case even the threat of terrorism or war (such as the destruction of Palmyra).

Preserving cultural identity requires the involvement of all community members to nurture a thriving heritage. This can be done through cultural exchange programs, fostering open dialogue and communication within the heritage community, and organizing events and festivals to celebrate diversity and pass down traditions and customs. It is also necessary to ensure that heritage belongs to everyone by ensuring inclusivity and unity. JCCCNC’s Nikkei Photo Contest is a perfect example of this.

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