There are several arguments for the sanctity of cultural heritage. In general, it is believed that all human societies have some kind of cultural property. Nonetheless, these properties are not necessarily considered as property of a country, as they are part of a group’s collective identity. Some countries even consider cultural patrimony as their own property, and this can make the collection of cultural property extremely sensitive. Nevertheless, the importance of cultural property cannot be ignored.
There are three basic categories of cultural heritage: material, behavioral, and intangible. Each category has its own definition, and cultural heritage literature often treats culture as a good or desirable thing, while other cultural practices may raise moral objections. Nevertheless, defining what constitutes cultural heritage can be difficult and contentious. Often, advocates of cultural integrity and preservation are accused of making misguided assumptions about different cultures. However, this view is often misguided.
Regardless of the category, the concept is essentially about the past, present, and future. The use of heritage often reveals the tacit evaluative assumptions that are present in society. For example, some people are more concerned with the material values of official heritage, but they might be tempted to discard them in favour of process-oriented heritage. By focusing on cultural values, heritage scholars can make a distinction between official and unofficial heritage.
Another distinction between tangible and intangible cultural heritage is whether or not it is worth preserving. The anthropological perspective on cultural heritage looks at the present and embodies both intangible and tangible heritage. For example, anthropologist Elizabeth Falconi describes storytelling, based on ethnographic fieldwork in the Zapotec community in Oaxaca, Mexico, in her article, “The Importance of Stories in a Culture of Memory
There are several reasons why cultural heritage is important. For starters, it reflects how a people has lived throughout history. Some of these heritages are tangible, while others are intangible, such as artifacts. Whether tangible or intangible, cultural heritage represents a culture’s values, beliefs, and ways of life. This includes artifacts, food, drink, and traditional clothing, among others. Cultural heritage has a universal meaning.
Memory and contested history play an important role in the creation of cultural heritage. As such, archival science, museums, and libraries must develop broader perspectives and approaches to the study of cultural heritage. Intangible cultural heritage is also a living heritage, and some of its practices will change over time. The preservation and archiving of it will help ensure that the values of the past are preserved for future generations. There are many aspects of the preservation of cultural heritage that need to be considered.
The use of traditional knowledge and practices is another important issue in preserving cultural heritage. For example, the eradication of indigenous languages and ceremonies was common during colonial times. Many colonial powers imposed a forced assimilation process that lasted for generations. For example, government funding for indigenous groups has increased in the past decade, but the same cannot be said for cultural appropriation. In both cases, the destruction of cultural forms has its consequences.
Defining cultural group membership is a difficult task. It confronts problems of cultural essentialism and continuity across time. For instance, how can the contemporary nation of Egypt claim cultural property from the ancient Egyptians, despite its radically different culture? It would appear that cultural property is essentially intangible. If you own the rights to a piece of cultural property, you are not necessarily stealing it. In addition, you’ll be preventing future generations from enjoying it.
In a similar vein, cultural appropriation disputes often involve racial differences. This is because the cultural property in question is owned by a minority of people, and wrongful appropriation often evokes a sense of social inequality. The use of cultural property carries a stigma, and it’s therefore crucial to ensure that any misuse of it is remedied as soon as possible. The cultural heritage is universally valuable, and should be protected, not only for the benefit of its owner.