Cultural heritage encompasses a wide range of manifestations of the past. It can include monuments, traditions, scholarly research, preservation, education, tourism, and so on.
The heritage discourse has expanded from a focus on buildings and artifacts to include intangible elements such as languages, customs, beliefs, music, and cuisine. The growing attention to intangible heritage raises new ethical questions and challenges.
Cultural heritage is the legacy of the past that we experience in the present and transmit to future generations. It includes physical artifacts (paintings, drawings, prints, mosaics and sculptures), archaeological sites, historical buildings and monuments and inscriptions. It also encompasses natural heritage (which may have cultural attributes).
Intangible cultural heritage refers to the practices, representations, expressions, knowledge and skills – and the instruments, objects and artefacts associated with them – that communities, groups and individuals recognize as an integral part of their identity. In this regard, it is important to distinguish between tangible and intangible manifestations of ICH.
However, the distinction between ‘tangible’ and ‘intangible’ cultural heritage is problematic. It reflects a Eurocentric view of heritage that prioritizes monuments and artifacts over the intangible cultural heritage embodied by people’s way of life. The definition should be clarified. Moreover, the UNESCO Convention does not want to safeguard any intangible cultural heritage that advocates apartheid, female genital mutilation or other forms of discrimination on the basis of race, religion or gender.
Cultural heritage embodies the history and identity of a community. It can be a powerful tool in healing and reconciliation following conflict or natural disasters. It is also a valuable economic resource. However, cultural heritage must be protected against both benign neglect and destructive human-made and natural hazards.
Preservation efforts require a wide range of skills and expertise. Engineers, architects, archaeologists, historians and sociologists may all be involved in the work to save cultural heritage sites. Chemists, materials scientists and conservators help preserve the physical components of cultural heritage. Biologists, zoologists, geoscientists and geographers are often part of the team to safeguard natural heritage.
The IDB’s Environmental and Social Policy Framework includes Performance Standard 8 (“ESPS”), which requires borrowers to consider the impact of development projects on tangible and intangible cultural heritage. This includes ensuring that access to cultural heritage is maintained, unless health and safety reasons dictate otherwise. This approach is based on the belief that cultural heritage is an integral component of people’s livelihood and a source of sustainable development.
In a world where families are moving frequently and communities are constantly being transformed by global economic shifts, a sense of heritage is not easy to come by. That is why preserving cultural heritage is so important. It helps people feel connected to others in their community. It allows them to share traditions, values, identities, struggles and aspirations. And it allows them to help others in their community who may not be as fortunate.
A key factor to consider when examining the creation of heritage is the way in which it is commemorated, memorialized and displayed. This is a crucial point because heritage can be denigrated by one group or segment of society and celebrated by another.
Menhert points out that in order to ensure the authenticity of heritage, it is important to take into account people’s memories of it. This is particularly important when collecting, describing and presenting cultural heritage documentation because the process may evoke evocative memories.
The research line explores the role of culture as a territorial asset and its impact on local economic development, with particular emphasis on creativity as an important mediator of this effect. It also identifies the need for an additional intangible element, beyond tangible heritage, to foster the link between cultural heritage and local economy: namely sense of belonging (Perucca 2019).
The first cluster, in red, shows the preoccupation of researchers with material or tangible heritage requiring preservation and restoration. It is followed by studies on intangible heritage, focusing in particular on ‘values’ and education. This is then complemented by studies on local identity, and the role of heritage in nationalist agendas.
Finally, a third strand of research investigates the links between heritage and knowledge: ‘heritage professions’ and ‘digital heritage’ are highlighted in this cluster, alongside ‘archeology’, ‘design’, ‘archives’, and ‘copyright’. Research is also focused on the role of museums and their ability to’mobilize knowledge’. An econometric study has shown that, overall, the endowment of cultural heritage does not have a significant direct impact on regional economic growth. However, it does have an indirect effect via its inspirational impact on different types of creative talents.