What is Cultural Heritage?

What is Cultural Heritage?

Cultural heritage encompasses all the elements that a community uses to construct its identity and its sense of the past, the present, and the future. These essential elements include artifacts (ancient, historical, and contemporary), decorations, art, traditional crafts, buildings, physical spaces, mythological locations, the natural environment, plants and animals, memories, stories, dances, songs, symbols, rituals, games, traditions, language, music, performances, and people.

Why does cultural heritage matter? A community uses the elements of its cultural heritage to structure its identity and its sense of purpose. A loss of any of these elements is a threat to its very existence as a community.

Not everyone agrees on how and why to promote cultural heritage. Some of the issues that have arisen over the years include who gets to decide what counts as cultural heritage, who should create and tell the stories of a community, and how and why should some aspects of cultural heritage be highlighted and other aspects placed in the background.