Cultural heritage represents the collection of customs, practices, objects, artistic expressions, places, and values that transcend a community from generation to generation. The international community establishes two types of cultural heritage, tangible and intangible.
In other words, cultural heritage consists of everything related to human activity that continues to travel and evolve throughout a community’s history. It can include spiritual beliefs, traditions, or everyday activities, such as using electronic payments like Pro Plus Pay. Basically, everything we do and provide value for the next generation can be part of our cultural heritage.
Cultural Heritage Types
Cultural Heritage is a broad and complex concept. Different communities could have diverse opinions on what their cultural heritage represents. Alternatively, they may consider various elements impactful enough to enrich their own cultures.
Generally, cultural heritage can be:
- Built Environment (Buildings, Townscapes, Archaeological remains)
- Natural Environment (Rural landscapes, Coasts, and shorelines, Agricultural heritage)
- Artifacts (Books & Documents, Objects, Pictures)
Some of these elements could transcend not only generations but also national borders. For instance, archaeological remains from the Viking era belong to their present-day countries. For example, this depends on where archaeologists found them, such as Sweden, Norway, or Denmark. However, they also belong to anyone native to the Scandinavian Peninsula who lived before these states formed.
Other cultural heritage elements, such as coastlines or rural landscapes, can change the country they belong to over the centuries. Nevertheless, they represent the people’s heritage living there and maintaining them.
Lastly, artifacts and artistic expressions can come in many forms. They can be tangible, such as books, pictures, paintings, etc. Conversely, they can be intangible, such as moral teachings, songs, beliefs, and values.
Tangible & Intangible Heritage
When the international community first considered cultural heritage, it looked almost exclusively at tangible forms. For example, artistic expressions from antiquity, such as sculptures, statues, or paintings, were part of establishing a community’s cultural basis.
The global cultural community has started looking into the intangible goods that generations share across centuries in recent years. These include voices, values, traditions, skills, ceremonies, cuisine, and even storytelling techniques.
In time, the cultural heritage of a community evolves to include everything valuable that its members can pass on to their descendants. The next generations have a moral and historical duty to preserve and improve this cultural heritage. To this end, several organizations exist worldwide with the sole purpose of overseeing the protection of cultural heritage.
On the other hand, it’s worth noting that, often, cultural heritage passes between generations almost involuntarily. In a way, it is like the children look at their parents’ belongings and choose to take whatever proves valuable for them and their offspring. In time, a community’s cultural heritage passes through a sieve that requires little to no supervision.
In conclusion, cultural heritage consists of two types, tangible and intangible. Both contain priceless elements that generations share and exchange voluntarily or not. Either way, the need for international organizations overseeing this transfer is imperative.