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What is cultural heritage?

What is cultural heritage about?
What is cultural heritage about? Is it only something that belongs to the past? Something we inherit? Is it something about archaeological sites, historical buildings, and statues? Or does it include festivals, songs, storytelling? I am Anna Triandafyllidou, and these are the questions that we will address in this first week of the course. Heritage has been traditionally used to refer to material sites like archaeological monuments, palaces, or churches and places of worship, paintings and sculptures– what we refer to as tangible heritage. In the late 20th century, the notion of heritage has expanded to include artistic practises, such as dancing, music, rituals, traditional medicine, cooking traditions, sports, as well as festivals and carnivals of various sorts.
Heritage has been further expanded to include natural sites, specific plants or animal species. We speak of the natural heritage of a country or a place. These however are descriptive definitions of heritage, list of items it includes. So what is heritage really about? It is about how the past informs the present and is actually used in the present. Heritage is something communities cherish. It implies ways of categorising objects and traditions. So it is also about the power of labelling and classifying. One should not forget that heritage is vulnerable as it may be lost because of destruction, loss, or decay. In some, heritage is more than a collection of things.
It is about the relationship that a community, nation, city, but it may also be an ethnic or religious minority, constructs with its past and includes references to specific sites but also to practises and traditions. Heritage is a framework within which people are socialised.

What is cultural heritage about?

In this video, we question what is commonly viewed as cultural heritage. We go through elements usually referred to as cultural heritage, and explain widely-used categories such as tangible heritage as opposed to intangible heritage. We then move on to stress the subjective nature of heritage and how it relates to the communities that define it.

Please share your thoughts: What did you view as cultural heritage before watching this video? And what do you think now?

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Cultural Heritage and the City

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FutureLearn - Learning For Life

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