Building a National Memory Through Archaeological and Cultural Heritage Conservation

what does heritage mean

Cultural heritage is the collective legacy of intangible and tangible cultural assets of a nation or group that has been inherited by previous generations. However, not all legacies of previous generations are considered “cultural heritage”; rather, cultural heritage is a product of choice by society. The value of cultural heritage is rooted in the fact that it perpetuates the evolution of culture. In essence, cultural heritage emerges from the human experiences and behaviors of previous generations to the present-day. More specifically, cultural heritage is the shared practices, beliefs, knowledge, values, and social organization of individuals belonging to different generations or communities that have existed for long periods of time.

The practice and protection of cultural heritage requires two essential dimensions: knowledge and action. Knowledge, in the broadest sense, refers to information systems, practices, or beliefs that have been passed on from the past to the present generation. Cultural Heritage Research has been an important component of this understanding. Cultural Heritage Research involves collecting, preserving, and monitoring different components of indigenous heritage such as art, history, language, family customs, traditional rituals, cultural beliefs, and even spiritual beliefs. These components form the basis of the intangible and tangible elements of indigenous heritage.

An Overview

A group of men riding on the back of a roof

Another dimension of cultural heritage is its physical manifestation. This dimension involves the physical characteristics of indigenous societies and their artifacts such as tools, pottery, fabrics, jewelry, wood, and bones. Moreover, the physical manifestations of heritage may also include historical remains such as buildings, monuments, or anthropological artifacts such as mummies. In order to conserve cultural goods, preservation techniques are applied to these artifacts.

Preservation methods involve techniques such as guarding, protecting, and managing heritage properties. The tangible components of heritage include monuments such as houses, historical sites, ceremonial structures, and ritual objects. Furthermore, the tangible cultural items include medicines, tools, and other information technology items. Usually, these information technology items are made using the least expensive technology available which helps in reducing the cost of maintaining them. A further aspect of heritage involves the management of these resources and their controlled access.

Archaeological Heritage Research involves determining the chronological and archaeological context of indigenous heritage sites by means of archeology. As such, it aims at integrating the study of archeology with heritage recovery. Archeological research seeks to determine the existence and chronicity of indigenous cultural practices, and their relationship with specific indigenous societies.

Building a National Memorial

A bedroom with a bed and a chair in a room

The process of preservation begins by determining the content of ancient monuments and artifacts from a particular community. Then these artifacts and monuments are evaluated for their suitability as curios. Based on the evaluation, preservation techniques are implemented. These include documentation, protection, and insurance of the historical sites and artifacts.

Moreover, to safeguard natural heritage sites and their monuments, archaeological sites are managed by the government. Examples of natural heritage sites are caves and monuments. In order to protect the archaeological sites, specific laws and regulations are applied.

As part of the management of the collections, the curators make the most of their financial resources. A major portion of these funds go to acquisition of physical artifacts. The acquisition of physical artifacts is necessary to satisfy the demand of collectors and curators. In addition to, they also undertake research activities like computerization, documentation, cataloguing, and storage. For the creation of catalogues, various inventories are done including personal collections, group collections, government/non-governmentwide, institutional, and financial collections. However, the most significant contribution made by curators is in creation and maintenance of intangible assets.

Curators work closely with the people who own the artifacts and maintain their collection. This helps them preserve the rich cultural traditions alive through their unique artistic creations and personal collections. With the help of Heritage Designers, the curators can come up with a wide range of ideas, designs, and symbols to depict the history of a certain region or country. Usually, heritage designers create the concept, design, and the blueprint of a structure that represents the national identity of an area, or a set of areas, and their local traditions and beliefs.

Memory through Art – Memory is not only affected by visual senses but also by audio and visual senses. Native American tribes have used their rich oral traditions and their collective images for centuries to protect their cultural values. In museums, the Native Americans’ oral traditions are presented as well. Thus, it can be said that the work of the curators as well as the Native American artists contributes in the creation of a national memory.

Bottom Line

Heritage, though it may be called as “tangible” or “immaterial,” has a unique and very real cultural heritage. It is something that cannot be taken for granted. The protection of these valuable artifacts and the protection of their cultures must be done legally through archaeological and heritage conservation projects. Through their assistance, the world at large will become familiar with the history of the indigenous people and their diverse culture, and also the richness of their human rights.

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