Tangible Cultural Heritage

©CNRS/ M. Arbach
As-Sawda Site in Yemen

Cultural heritage is the legacy of physical artefacts 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.  

Tangible heritage includes buildings and historic places, monuments, artifacts, etc., which are considered worthy of preservation for the future.  These include objects significant to the archaeology, architecture, science or technology of a specific culture.  

Objects are important to the study of human history because they provide a concrete basis for ideas, and can validate them.  Their preservation demonstrates recognition of the necessity of the past and of the things that tell its story.  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.

Role of UNESCO

UNESCO’s strategy focuses on:

  • Least Developed Countries (LDC) and countries in emergency situations (post-conflict or post-natural disaster), particularly in Africa
  • The museums and collections that best contribute to an integrated understanding of heritage and their potential contribution to the economic
  • Social and human development of local communities and disadvantaged groups

This strategy is implemented through:

  • Training activities involving simple and efficient techniques for safeguarding objects, with a special emphasis on the creation of pedagogical tools
  • Museum development by strengthening professional networks and partnerships
  • Improving educational content and access to knowledge through awareness-raising and educational activities
  • Promoting the return, restitution, and improved access to cultural objects by means of awareness-raising and advisory activities and innovative partnerships
  • Last but not least, through the joint implementation of normative and operational activities, particularly in regard to the fight against illicit trafficking and the protection of underwater heritage

Activities

 

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