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Cultural heritage ("national heritage" or just "heritage") is the legacy of physical and intangible attributes of the past of a group or society that are selected from the past, and inherited, maintained in the present and bestowed for the benefit of future generations. What is considered cultural heritage by one generation may be rejected by the next generation, only to be revived by a succeeding generation.

Physical or "tangible cultural heritage" includes buildings and historic places, monuments, artifacts, etc., that are considered worthy of preservation for the future. These include objects significant to the archaeology, architecture, science or technology of a specific culture. Heritage can also include cultural landscapes (natural features that may have cultural attributes) Recently heritage practitioners have moved from classifying heritage as natural as man has intervened in the shaping of nature in the past four million years.

"Natural heritage" is also an important part of a culture, encompassing the countryside and natural environment, including flora and fauna, scientifically know as biodiversity. 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.

The heritage that survives from the past is often unique and irreplaceable, 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 have been successful at gaining the necessary support to preserve the heritage of many nations for the future.

Significant was the Convention Concerning the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage that was adopted by the General Conference of UNESCOmarker in 1972. As of 2008, there are 878 World Heritage Sites: 678 cultural, 174 natural, and 26 mixed properties, in 145 countries. Each of these sites is considered important to the international community.

A broader definition includes intangible 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.

The impulse to preserve artifacts

Objects are important to 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. In The Past is a Foreign Country, David Lowenthal observes that preserved objects also validate memories; and the actuality of the object, as opposed to a reproduction or surrogate, 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. Similarly changing is the value each generation may place on the past and on the artifacts that link it to the past.

See also

Theory and methods



External links

The touristical management of the cultural heritage

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