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Roman ruins with a prophet, by Giovanni Pannini, 1751. The artistic cultural heritage of the Roman Empire served as a foundation for later Western culture, particularly via the Renaissance and Neoclassicism (as exemplified here).

Cultural heritage is the legacy of physical artifacts and intangible attributes of a group or society that are inherited from past generations, maintained in the present and bestowed for the benefit of future generations. Cultural heritage includes tangible culture (such as buildings, monuments, landscapes, books, works of art, and artifacts), intangible culture (such as folklore, traditions, language, and knowledge), and natural heritage (including culturally significant landscapes, and biodiversity).

The deliberate act of keeping cultural heritage from the present for the future is known as preservation (American English) or conservation (British English), though these terms may have more specific or technical meaning in the same contexts in the other dialect.

Cultural heritage is unique, irreplaceable and beautiful which places the responsibility of preservation on the current generation. Smaller objects such as artworks and other cultural masterpieces are collected in museums and art galleries. Grass roots organizations and political groups, such as the international body UNESCO, have been successful at gaining the necessary support to preserve the heritage of many nations for the future generations to cherish.

The ethics and rationale of cultural preservation[edit]

Objects are a part of the study of human history because they provide a concrete basis for ideas, and can validate them. Their preservation demonstrates a recognition of the necessity of the past and of the things that tell its story.[1] In The Past is a Foreign Country, David Lowenthal observes that preserved objects also validate memories. While digital acquisition techniques can provide a technological solution that is able to acquire the shape and the appearance of artifacts with an unprecedented precision[2] in human history, the actuality of the object, as opposed to a reproduction, draws people in and gives them a literal way of touching the past. This unfortunately poses a danger as places and things are damaged by the hands of tourists, the light required to display them, and other risks of making an object known and available. The reality of this risk reinforces the fact that all artifacts are in a constant state of chemical transformation, so that what is considered to be preserved is actually changing – it is never as it once was.[3] Similarly changing is the value each generation may place on the past and on the artifacts that link it to the past.

Kautilya Society in Varanasi - When heritage protection becomes a fight for legality and participation Film-Camera.png"They harass me because I demand civil society participation to public policies and I contrast the misuse of privileges"

Classical civilizations, and especially the Indian, have attributed supreme importance to the preservation of tradition. Its central idea was that social institutions, scientific knowledge and technological applications need to use a "heritage" as a "resource".[4] Using contemporary language, we could say that ancient Indians considered, as social resources, both economic assets (like natural resources and their exploitation structure) and factors promoting social integration (like institutions for the preservation of knowledge and for the maintenance of civil order).[5] Ethics considered that what had been inherited should not be consumed, but should be handed over, possibly enriched, to successive generations. This was a moral imperative for all, except in the final life stage of sannyasa.

What one generation considers "cultural heritage" may be rejected by the next generation, only to be revived by a subsequent generation.

Types of heritage[edit]

Classical Ruins by Hubert Robert, 1798. Elements of tangible culture depicted include the ruins of the obelisk (foreground) and the pyramids (background).

Cultural property[edit]

Cultural property includes the physical, or "tangible" cultural heritage, such as works of art. These are generally split into two groups of moveable and immoveable heritage. Immoveable heritage includes buildings (which themselves may include installed art such as organs, stained-glass windows, and frescoes), large industrial installations or other historic places and monuments. Moveable heritage includes books, documents, moveable artworks, machines, clothing, and other artifacts, that are considered worthy of preservation for the future. These include objects significant to the archaeology, architecture, science or technology of a specific culture.

Aspects and disciplines of the preservation and conservation of tangible culture include:

Intangible culture[edit]

The Grandfather Tells A Story, by Albert Anker, ca. 1884. Elements of intangible culture depicted here include storytelling (oral culture), foodways, tool-use and crafts, in addition to material culture such as architecture

"Intangible cultural heritage" consists of non-physical aspects of a particular culture, often maintained by social customs during a specific period in history. The ways and means of behavior in a society, and the often formal rules for operating in a particular cultural climate. These include social values and traditions, customs and practices, aesthetic and spiritual beliefs, artistic expression, language and other aspects of human activity. The significance of physical artifacts can be interpreted against the backdrop of socioeconomic, political, ethnic, religious and philosophical values of a particular group of people. Naturally, intangible cultural heritage is more difficult to preserve than physical objects.

Aspects of the preservation and conservation of cultural intangibles include:

Natural heritage[edit]

"Natural heritage" is also an important part of a society's heritage, encompassing the countryside and natural environment, including flora and fauna, scientifically known as biodiversity, as well as geological elements (including mineralogical, geomorphological, paleontological, etc.), scientifically known as geodiversity. These kind of heritage sites often serve as an important component in a country's tourist industry, attracting many visitors from abroad as well as locally. Heritage can also include cultural landscapes (natural features that may have cultural attributes).

Aspects of the preservation and conservation of natural heritage include:

World heritage movement[edit]

Plaque stating the designation of Carthage as a World Heritage Site.

Significant was the Convention Concerning the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage that was adopted by the General Conference of UNESCO in 1972. As of 2011, there are 936 World Heritage Sites: 725 cultural, 183 natural, and 28 mixed properties, in 153 countries. Each of these sites is considered important to the international community.

The underwater cultural heritage is protected by the UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage. This convention is a legal instrument helping states parties to improve the protection of their underwater cultural heritage.[6]

In additional, UNESCO has begun designating masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights sitting as part of the United Nations Economic and Social Council with article 15 of its Covenant had sought to instill the principles under which cultural heritage is protected as part of a basic human right.

Key international documents and bodies include:

National and regional heritage movements[edit]

Much of heritage preservation work is done at the national, regional, or local levels of society. Various national and regional regimes include:

  • Australia:
Burra Charter
Heritage Overlay in Victoria, Australia
  • Canada
Heritage conservation in Canada
Canadian Register of Historic Places
  • Chile
National Monuments Council (Chile)
  • China
Heritage conservation in Hong Kong
  • Egypt
Supreme Council of Antiquities
  • Ghana
Ghana’s material cultural heritage
  • India
Indian Heritage Cities Network, Mysore
Heritage structures in Hyderabad
  • Japan
Cultural Properties of Japan
  • Kenya
  • Macedonia
Institute for Protection of Cultural Monuments
  • Namibia
National Heritage Council of Namibia
National Monuments Council
  • New Zealand
New Zealand Historic Places Trust
  • South Africa
South African Heritage Resources Agency
Provincial heritage resources authorities
Amafa aKwaZulu-Natali
Heritage Western Cape
Northern Cape Heritage Resources Authority
National Monuments Council
Historical Monuments Commission
  • United Kingdom
Conservation in the United Kingdom
English Heritage
English Heritage Archive
National Trust
  • United States of America
National Register of Historic Places
  • Zimbabwe
National Monuments of Zimbabwe

Issues in cultural heritage[edit]

Emblem used to clearly identify cultural property under protection of the Hague Convention of 1954, regarding cultural property during armed conflicts.

Broad philosophical, technical, and political issues and dimensions of cultural heritage include:

See also[edit]

Digital methods in preservation


  1. ^ Tanselle, G. Thomas (1998), Literature and Artifacts, Charlottesville, VA: Bibliographical Society of the University of Virginia, ISBN 1-883631-06-8, OCLC 39223648 
  2. ^ Paolo Cignoni, Roberto Scopigno (June 2008), "Sampled 3D models for CH applications: A viable and enabling new medium or just a technological exercise?" (PDF), ACM Journal on Computing and Cultural Heritage 1 (1): 1, doi:10.1145/1367080.1367082. 
  3. ^ Lowenthal, David (1985), The Past is a Foreign Country, New York: Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-22415-2, OCLC 12052097 
  4. ^ Proposing Varanasi for the World Heritage List of UNESCO, Varanasi Development Authority .
  5. ^ Singh, Rana P.B., Vrinda Dar and S. Pravin, Rationales for including Varanasi as hertitage city in the UNESCO World Heritage List, National Geographic Journal of India (varanasi) 2001, 47:177-200 .
  6. ^ [This convention is a legal instrument helping states parties to improve the protection of their underwater cultural heritage]

Further reading[edit]

  • Barbara T. Hoffman, Art and cultural heritage: law, policy, and practice, Cambridge University Press, 2006
  • Dallen J. Timothy and Gyan P. Nyaupane, Cultural heritage and tourism in the developing world : a regional perspective, Taylor & Francis, 2009
  • Peter Probst, "Osogbo and the Art of Heritage: Monuments, Deities, and Money", Indiana University Press, 2011

External links[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cultural_heritage — Please support Wikipedia.
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