Cultural heritage is the intangible and tangible legacy that a community transfers from one generation to another. It includes beliefs, traditions and practices. It also includes significant places and artifacts.
The purposeful destruction of cultural heritage by nonstate armed groups, militias and despotic governments amounts to social and cultural genocide.
Heritage encompasses all aspects of a culture. It includes the buildings and monuments that are deemed important enough to be protected by national laws or international conventions, as well as intangible elements such as traditions, customs, artistic expressions, beliefs, folklore, languages and knowledge.
The valuation of cultural heritage is a complex process that involves assessing direct and indirect uses. The latter can be harder to quantify than the former because they require a subjective assessment of the experience a person gains from being in an historic city, for example, as opposed to seeing a picture of it.
However, better techniques are being developed to quantify the intangible values that make up a culture’s heritage. This allows the damage that is inflicted on a people’s heritage by nonstate armed groups, despotic governments and invading armies to be more clearly seen as a form of cultural and social genocide. In addition, it can help to make the case for effective strategies to prevent or hold those responsible for purposeful destruction of cultural heritage in conflict and nonconflict situations.
Heritage is a complex concept with many different meanings. It includes both physical artifacts and intangible attributes that characterize a society. It is a subject of increasing popular and scholarly interest worldwide. Several theories and approaches have been developed to understand its role in the construction of identity. These include the notion of a’shared heritage’, hegemony and counterhegemony, the relationship between heritage and tourism and nostalgia, and the distinction between cultural and natural heritage.
The emergence of the concept of cultural heritage is a result of a long historical development that began with the impulse to document and preserve objects that exemplify a culture or a historic event. This led to the development of the world’s great libraries, museums, and archives, and to the professionalization of antiquarians, historians, philologists, archaeologists, art collectors and curators. It also gave rise to governmental attention, communal advocacy, preservation policies and practices, and tourism. The notion of cultural heritage is also entwined with ideas of identity and the construction of nations.
In addition to promoting and strengthening a sense of identity and pride, heritage is an important economic driver. It contributes to the sustainable development of local economies and helps communities face challenges such as poverty, climate change, and natural disasters. It also creates jobs and attracts tourists, which in turn helps fund preservation efforts.
In our study, participants identified a broad range of natural and human-made objects as cultural heritage. Unlike some previous studies, participants did not conceptually disassociate cultural heritage from natural heritage. Rather, they perceived the two as integrally linked and shared.
Cultural heritage can be a source of inspiration for new ideas and innovations. This has been demonstrated in a variety of contexts, such as the use of neoclassical architecture by Liberian homeowners inspired by the mansions of former American slave owners, or the influence of Japanese prints on Paul Gauguin’s paintings. It is also evident in the preservation and revitalization of historic sites, monuments, and buildings.
Heritage specialists strive to communicate archaeological information to nonspecialists in ways that are not utilitarian, attempting to inspire cognitive imagery and provide meaningful interpretive experiences. They want to examine new ways of conveying historical information in cultural heritage venues such as national parks and museums, and through other media such as books, music and television.
Nonuse benefits can be hard to measure, and are often considered more important than use values. They may include aesthetic benefits such as enjoyment of the beauty of historic cities, and recreation benefits that are not directly linked to body or possessions. There is also a sense of enrichment people derive from the fact that major parts of a cultural heritage site are still there. This is sometimes referred to as existence value.
In addition to the value of heritage as a source of pleasure and enrichment, there are practical economic considerations. Many countries are struggling financially, and spending money on heritage preservation might seem counterproductive.