Cultural heritage is a legacy that combines physical artifacts (cultural property) with intangible values, knowledge, and ways of doing. It is an important aspect of a society’s identity and development process.
A key issue is how to protect it from destruction. This is especially true in times of conflict or disaster.
A cultural heritage is a legacy of the way of life and values of a people or society. It includes tangible and intangible artefacts, places, beliefs, customs, traditions, languages and more that have been passed on from one generation to the next and whose presence is essential for the development of a people or culture.
A heritage can be tangible (including buildings, monuments and artifacts) or intangible, such as customs and traditions, arts, music and beliefs. It may also include towns, underwater heritage and the natural environment.
The preservation of cultural heritage is a fundamental part of human rights law. It is a right under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Cultural heritage is an essential element of human society. It embodies the traditions, arts, structures and values of a particular group and it gives people a sense of connection with each other.
It is also a major industry and a key component of economic development. It creates jobs and generates revenue, spawning secondary enterprises based on cultural heritage collections and practices.
The concept of cultural heritage has been shaped by antiquarians, historians, philologists, archaeologists, archivists and museum curators who documented and recorded the world’s cultures in the past. Moreover, many governments and the UN created numerous programs to protect and safeguard this cultural legacy.
Cultural heritage is a key factor in local and global development, enabling economic prosperity, social equity, environmental responsibility, and cultural vitality. It also helps communities build a strong identity and sense of connection to their past.
Cultural heritage can be defined as a group of buildings and sites, artefacts, monuments, museums that have a diversity of values including symbolic, historic, artistic, aesthetic, ethnological or anthropological, scientific and social significance. It also includes intangible cultural heritage (ICH) embedded into cultural, natural and other heritage artefacts, sites or monuments.
Despite the increasing interest in cultural heritage worldwide, there is still much debate about its role. Some social scientists see it as a supporter of ethnic, national, and elite interests but others point to its creative and counterhegemonic sides. In the case of conflict, a loss of cultural property can fuel resentment and exacerbate armed conflicts or hinder post-conflict national reconciliation. It can also be an asset in tourism and economic development, but should never be taken for granted.
Cultural heritage encompasses a wide variety of practices, beliefs, values, customs and traditions. These include religion, culture, arts and crafts, language, music and sports.
The preservation of this cultural heritage can be challenging. Historic buildings, monuments and archaeological sites are vulnerable to earthquakes, fires and other natural disasters.
It is also important to remember that what is considered a part of a cultural heritage by one generation may not be so by the next. It may be discarded or changed as the world changes around it.
In addition to these challenges, cultural heritage is often the object of controversy. For example, the recent death of an American missionary on North Sentinel Island sparked many people’s opinions.