Cultural heritage is defined as any item or activity that exemplifies a culture or a society. Traditionally, this term refers to artifacts, monuments, and buildings. However, the concept has now expanded to encompass all forms of human expression and creativity, including towns, landscapes, and even underwater heritage. Intangible cultural heritage includes everything from dances to sacred processions, from Vedic chanting to the polyphonic singing of the Aka in Central Africa.
As a general concept, culture is often treated as a good and inviolable phenomenon, although certain practices and objects can cause serious moral objections. Nonetheless, defining cultural heritage is a complex and often contentious process. Advocates of cultural preservation often accuse other groups of imposing their cultural practices on cultural heritage or ignoring their rights to their heritage. But if one is truly a cultural internationalist, there is no need to worry.
While there is a large body of evidence that suggests the existence of cultural heritage, the concept has been in existence for a long time. The work of historians, philologists, ethnographers, and archivists has largely contributed to the growth of museums and collections around the world. The idea of cultural heritage, in turn, has helped prevent the development of chauvinistic grass-root organizations, which seek to destroy the past and re-enact history.
While tangible heritage is the obvious physical manifestation of a culture, cultural heritage also includes intangible expressions that have been passed down from previous generations. These include artistic, musical, and cultural expressions, as well as social manners, rituals, and festive events. Intangible cultural heritage is anything that has a symbolic, aesthetic, or ethnological significance. It can also encompass knowledge and practices about nature and the universe and traditional crafts. For example, cave paintings can be considered intangible cultural heritage.
This book contains essays that have emerged from a conference held at Willamette University. The aim of this conference was to provoke new ideas and explore the nuances and complexities of cultural heritage. Rather than focusing on the past, it sought to address the interaction between culture and law, as well as the broader societal context. In addition to the theoretical contributions, the book contains a bibliography of related works in philosophy and the law.
The Convention on Cultural Diversity (UNESCO) recognizes the importance of cultural heritage, and requires borrowers to protect cultural heritage and contribute to its conservation. The convention also requires borrowers to promote equitable distribution of benefits. The Convention also sets standards regarding sustainable development and mutual respect among people. The IDB’s Environmental and Social Policy Framework has a Performance Standard on Cultural Diversity, which requires borrowers to protect cultural heritage. Once adopted, this standard will become the basis for lending in areas of cultural diversity.
The preservation of tangible cultural heritage is an ongoing challenge for historians. Artifacts may be destroyed or damaged through the passage of time, natural disasters, human destruction, or even the creation of new technologies. This problem requires the coordination of governments and policing organizations. Unfortunately, this cooperation is difficult during times of political unrest, and is often impeded by the lack of information about the origins of cultural objects. In the end, the goal of this program is to conserve cultural heritage.
As with all cultural heritage, there are many ways to preserve it. The UNESCO definition of cultural heritage includes an implicit notion of memory. Memory is shaped by the experiences and memories of people. The term cultural heritage refers to both documented and oral heritage, and can be defined as the combination of human memory and scientific scholarship. The memory of individuals is one of the most important components of cultural heritage. Even when it is documented in primary source documents, people’s memories are heightened, thereby enhancing the preservation of that cultural heritage.
While tangible and intangible cultural heritage require different approaches, both must be safeguarded. The UNESCO 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage recognizes the role of people in intangible cultural heritage and promoting living human treasures. A cultural heritage may be a combination of tangible and intangible elements, which make the preservation of each unique piece of heritage more challenging. However, cultural nationalists believe that the universal value of cultural heritage should not be compromised by political or economic forces.
Unfortunately, the destruction of cultural forms and practices during colonialism has led to a loss of identity. Many Indigenous groups have been forced to change their language and practice, as colonial powers tried to make them as compatible as possible with their new identities. Today, however, many of their cultural products are still in use today. Although cultural appropriation may be an issue, it is still important to recognize that it can happen. The first question to ask is: Does cultural appropriation make the creation of a cultural product or practice a crime?