What Is Cultural Heritage?

When people think of cultural heritage they often imagine art, historical monuments and buildings, and archaeological sites. However, cultural heritage also includes intangible elements that are woven into a community’s fabric, like languages and traditions.

These values and traditions are constantly being threatened by natural or anthropogenic factors. The loss or deterioration of these cultural heritage relics can result from negligence, ignorance, unauthorized access, and improper conservational practices.


Cultural heritage encompasses the entire set of traditions and artifacts that represent a community’s shared experience. This includes both tangible and intangible heritage, such as works of art or monuments as well as less obvious aspects like languages and holidays.

Cultural heritage is important because it allows us to understand the beliefs and values of people in the past. It is also a source of pride and identity for people in the present. Unfortunately, many cultures are under threat. Benign neglect, devastating accidents, natural disasters, and even war or terrorism can destroy cultural heritage sites and even erode living culture.

The preservation of cultural heritage requires resources. Economic analysis can help us determine how to best allocate these resources. For example, we can use stated preference methods to value the different parts of heritage, such as direct and indirect use values. It can also help us evaluate options, such as whether to preserve a site or to sell it.


The concept of cultural heritage has been the focus of increasing interest worldwide. It is defined as the legacy of physical artifacts and intangible attributes that a society has inherited from past generations.

It includes tangible items such as monuments, town sites and archeological sites, works of art and a broad range of other material culture. It also consists of immaterial cultural heritage such as oral traditions, community bonds and language.

Cultural heritage is a part of who we are. It shapes our values and influences our worldview. It can be a source of strength and a source of pride. It can also be a source of conflict and division. Blue Shield believes that cultural heritage should be protected and celebrated. We encourage you to consider how your own heritage ties you to your family, friends and history. If it is a source of conflict, we ask you to be the brave person in your family who lets go of negative or false beliefs and traditions.


The term cultural heritage encompasses a wide range of human expressions, practices, and traditions. It includes both material and immaterial heritage, including:

People who work with cultural heritage often come from an academic background – think archaeology, art history, or sociology. But it is becoming increasingly clear that many people in other fields – including the sciences, engineering, and medicine – also have a critical role to play in preserving and promoting our shared cultural heritage.

When we think of protecting cultural heritage, we might immediately think of preserving works of art or historical buildings or archaeological sites. But cultural heritage can also include a wider range of things, such as handwritten manuscripts that are preserved in digital collections like Europeana, or a cultural tradition that is transmitted in the form of dances and music, or in a particular cuisine. Even ideas, beliefs, and values can be considered part of a cultural heritage if they are recognized as such by the communities that produce and transmit them.


The purpose of cultural heritage is to provide a sense of history and identity for individuals, communities and nations. This can be both tangible, like art and monuments, or intangible, such as languages, beliefs, folklore and traditions. It is important to preserve and celebrate this heritage for future generations.

Many issues related to the preservation of heritage arise because there is a societal value placed on it, which goes beyond its commercial attributes. These values include the ability to promote respect for cultural diversity, human creativity and the value of learning from the past.

The complexities of heritage issues are best addressed by multidisciplinary approaches, which is why the fields of cultural geography and archaeology are important in understanding the complex interactions between culture, environment and heritage. Often these interactions are not linear and may even be contradictory, but the interconnections should be explored to find ways to build mutual understanding, which can lead to more sustainable solutions.

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