Cultural heritage is the legacy of cultural resources and intangible attributes of a group or society that is inherited from past generations. Not all legacies of past generations are "heritage", rather heritage is a product of selection by society.
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 and heritage from the present for the future is known as preservation (American English) or conservation (British English), which cultural and historical ethnic museums and cultural centers promote, though these terms may have more specific or technical meaning in the same contexts in the other dialect. Preserved heritage has become an anchor of the global tourism industry, a major contributor economic value to local communities.
Legal protection of cultural property comprises a number of international agreements and national laws, and these must also be implemented. United Nations, UNESCO and Blue Shield International deal with the protection of cultural heritage. This also applies to the integration of United Nations peacekeeping.
Protection of cultural heritage or protection of cultural goods means all measures to protect cultural property against damage, destruction, theft, embezzlement or other loss. The term “monument protection” is also used for immovable cultural property. This relates in particular to the prevention of robbery digs at archaeological sites, the looting or destruction of cultural sites and the theft of works of art from churches and museums all over the world and basically measures regarding the conservation and general access to our common cultural heritage. Legal protection of cultural heritage comprises a number of international agreements and national laws, and these must also be implemented.
There is a close partnership between Blue Shield International, the UN, United Nations peacekeeping, UNESCO and the International Committee of the Red Cross. In many armies, such as the Austrian Armed Forces (Theresian Military Academy), there are extensive protection programs and cultural heritage protection is part of the training. Essentially, the armed forces and conflicting parties are generally prohibited from using cultural heritage, its immediate surroundings and the facilities intended for its protection for military (paramilitary) purposes, and in particular exposing cultural property to destruction or damage in the event of an armed conflict.
There have been examples of respect for the cultural assets of enemies since ancient times. The roots of today's legal situation for the explicit protection of cultural heritage also lie in some of Austria's ruler Maria Theresa (1717 - 1780) decided Regulations and the demands of the Congress of Vienna (1814/15) not to remove works of art from their place of origin in the war. The process continued at the end of the 19th century when, in 1874 (in Brussels), at least a draft international agreement on the laws and customs of war was agreed. 25 years later, in 1899, an international peace conference was held in the Netherlands on the initiative of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, with the aim of revising the declaration (which was never ratified) and adopting a convention. The Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907 also significantly advanced international law and laid down the principle of the immunity of cultural property. Three decades later, in 1935, the preamble to the Treaty on the Protection of Artistic and Scientific Institutions (Roerich Pact) was formulated. On the initiative of UNESCO, the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict was signed in 1954.
The protection of the cultural heritage should also preserve the particularly sensitive cultural memory, the growing cultural diversity and the economic basis of a state, a municipality or a region. Whereby there is also a connection between cultural user disruption or cultural heritage and the cause of flight. But only through the fundamental cooperation, including the military units and the planning staff, with the locals can the protection of world heritage sites, archaeological finds, exhibits and archaeological sites from destruction, looting and robbery be implemented sustainably. The founding president of Blue Shield International Karl von Habsburg summed it up with the words: “Without the local community and without the local participants, that would be completely impossible”.
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. 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 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. Similarly changing is the value each generation may place on the past and on the artifacts that link it to the past.
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". 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). 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.
See also: Material culture
Cultural property includes the physical, or "tangible" cultural heritage, such as artworks. These are generally split into two groups of movable and immovable heritage. Immovable heritage includes building so (which themselves may include installed art such as organs, stained glass windows, and frescos), large industrial installations, residential projects 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 specified culture.
Aspects and disciplines of the preservation and conservation of tangible culture include:
Main article: Intangible cultural heritage
"Intangible cultural heritage" consists of non-physical aspects of a particular culture, more often maintained by social customs during a specific period in history. The concept includes 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 as an act 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:
See also: Conservation movement
"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:
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.
In addition, 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:
Much of heritage preservation work is done at the national, regional, or local levels of society. Various national and regional regimes include:
Broad philosophical, technical, and political issues and dimensions of cultural heritage include:
Issues in cultural heritage management include:
Through digitisation a range of values can be created relating to documentation, preservation, research, education, commercialisation, engagement, etc.