What Is Cultural Heritage?

Cultural heritage includes both tangible and intangible forms of history. The tangible forms include monuments, town sites, and archaeological sites. These artefacts carry and transmit the cultural features of a society from one generation to the next.

The preservation and protection of cultural heritage is a complex issue. It involves many issues including decolonisation of collections, repatriation of looted objects and conflicts over ownership of archaeological sites.


Whether it’s your grandfather’s old diaries or the ancient manuscripts in your library, these artifacts hold a lot of meaning. This significance is what defines cultural heritage and encapsulates a community’s culture and values that are worth passing on to future generations.

The term “cultural heritage” can be divided into two types: Tangible cultural heritage (tangible heritage that you can touch, such as works of art, monuments, buildings and archaeological sites) and intangible cultural heritage (non-physical characteristics such as social customs and traditions, beliefs and languages).

Unfortunately, the protection and preservation of these treasured artifacts is a difficult task due to various factors including natural disasters, human conflict, climate change and unsustainable tourism. In addition, essential tasks such as transcription, digitisation and research can be extremely challenging when dealing with fragile material. This is where tools like Transkribus come in, allowing for a more effective and efficient way of protecting and safeguarding cultural heritage. This helps to preserve important documents, making them accessible to the public for a better understanding of our shared history.


Cultural heritage is more than one object or tradition; it represents a whole culture. Often, it is a source of pride and allegiance to a group or people. It can also be a way of expressing individual creativity or identity. It can even be something as simple as a family’s recipe or the fact that they celebrate a holiday at the same time every year.

Tangible cultural heritage consists of physical artefacts and buildings, monuments, architectural districts and museums with outstanding universal value from the artistic, historic, scientific or ethnological point of view. It also includes movable cultural heritage and immobile or underwater cultural heritage (ICH).

Protecting the world’s heritage requires balance between the interests of private and public owners, who share ownership of the property, and the rights of citizens to access the heritage. Illicit trafficking and destruction of cultural heritage are often driven by political, religious or ideological beliefs. A number of countries have legislation in place to ensure the protection of cultural heritage.


When people hear the term cultural heritage, they often think of artifacts such as paintings and sculptures, historical monuments and buildings or archaeological sites. However, the concept is much broader than that. It also includes non-physical aspects of culture such as traditions, beliefs, languages, folklore and cuisine. These are intangible cultural heritage assets, which can be equally valuable and fragile as tangible ones.

Cultural heritage preservation requires resources, especially at the national and regional level. It is essential to carry out key tasks such as transcription, archiving and research. These activities are challenging if done manually, but with the right tools such as Transkribus, they can be performed easily and efficiently.

The complex issue of cultural heritage has many dimensions, including global, regional and local levels. It is a subject that requires the engagement of various stakeholders from different sectors, including museums, archives and libraries. For example, the notions of memory and contested history have not been fully explored in the context of library science, while they are extensively discussed in museum studies and archival practice.


The significance attributed to cultural heritage can be highly contested, especially when it comes to Indigenous heritage. It is the responsibility of those in positions of authority – whether governments, museums or scholarly organizations – to take measures to ensure that they are respectful of these concerns and include these perspectives in their interpretations and educational programs.

Protecting cultural heritage is not an easy task: illicit trafficking of artifacts, pillaging of archaeological sites and the destruction of historic buildings and monuments are just a few of the threats that can jeopardize its preservation. To deal with these challenges, it is important to involve a variety of experts: engineers, architects and archaeologists, conservationists and art historians, as well as biologists, chemists, geologists, hydrologists, historians and anthropologists.

Moreover, fostering critical thinking in children from an early age is crucial to avoid a heritagisation of heritage where only those in positions of power can identify with it. This can be achieved by including a socio-critical approach in education and training for teachers from an early stage.

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