Want to keep learning?

This content is taken from the Griffith University's online course, Cities of Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow: Why Heritage Matters. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 13 seconds Let’s see what the experts have to say about the definition of heritage. Yes. We have travelled around the world asking them this question. What is heritage?

Skip to 0 minutes and 25 seconds I am a Professor from the School of Architecture of Hunan University. My areas of research are theoretical research on architectural history and cultural heritage protection. As far as cultural heritage protection is concerned, I believe that, the cultural heritage symbolises an ethnic group or a country as well as their history and culture. Therefore, each country or ethnic group will try as much as they can to conserve their own cultural heritage. My work focuses on this area. Although I have encountered many difficulties in the conservation of cultural heritage in the past, I am very glad to continue to do this.

Skip to 1 minute and 18 seconds Hi. I’m Alfonso Govela. I’m an architect, planner and computer freak. For me, heritage is our memory built around us Cities are the accumulation of our ideas, our symbolism, our emotions. But these are built emotions. We can express our emotions in many ways. In the city, emotions become embodied, positioned, built. So heritage is the channel that connects us with our cultural past and our cultural future. It is what ties us to our community and our place in history.

Skip to 2 minutes and 15 seconds Our heritage, our material culture in buildings and in landscape are elements that have been given to us from the previous generations and as caretakers. They’re elements which we must care for in order to pass them to future generations. And we do this because these buildings and landscapes are expressions of the ideas and hopes and values which we hold dearest to us as a community. Sometimes they’re ordinary buildings. They’ve survived somehow through decades, through generations, and they’re still with us. But even the most ordinary of landscapes or buildings which have survived through time nonetheless are carriers of narratives which tell us stories about what we’ve managed to achieve and help us to understand what we may yet achieve as a community.

Skip to 3 minutes and 13 seconds Without these elements, we are left without our memory. Think this way. We understand ourselves and can talk about ourselves and can relate ourselves to others because we have our memories. We know who we are because of our memory. And so if we lose our heritage, we are losing our collective memory. We’re losing our collective sense of ourselves, and in a way, in a profound way, this leaves us rudderless to find a meaningful future.

Skip to 3 minutes and 49 seconds Hello everyone. My name is Wu Lei. I am an Associate Professor from the College of Tourism of Hunan Normal University. My areas of research are tourism management and hotel management. I believe that heritage is our most treasured gift from nature. In China, there are two types of cultural heritage. The first type is tangible cultural heritage. The second type is intangible cultural heritage. As you can see, for example, the village behind us is a tangible cultural heritage site. This is Wengcao Village of Guzhang County in China. The villagers utilise the most traditional architectural techniques to refurbish and build their houses. Many tourists like them very much. So this falls into the domain of tangible cultural heritage that I mentioned previously.

Skip to 4 minutes and 41 seconds So now you’ve heard what the experts from diverse locations and cultures have to say about the meanings of heritage. Did you notice any similarities or differences in opinion? Having listened to the experts, how’s your understanding of heritage changed?

Internationally understood definitions of heritage

You’ve had a chance to share your views on what heritage is, now let’s hear how experts from around the world define heritage.

Watch this short video to hear the views of:

  • Professor Su Liu
  • Alfonso Govela
  • Howard Decker
  • Associate Professor Lei Wu

Each of these experts shares their response to the question, “What is heritage?”

Some of the video content is in Mandarin and Spanish, so you will need to keep the subtitles on to read the English translations.

Your task

How’s your understanding of heritage changed after listening to what the experts have to say?

Share your answer in the comments.

Share this video:

This video is from the free online course:

Cities of Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow: Why Heritage Matters

Griffith University