Intangible Cultural Heritage

Intangible Cultural Heritage

The notion of intangible cultural heritage (ICH) emerged in the 90s, as a counter part to the World Heritage that focusses mainly on tangible aspects of culture. In 2001, UNESCO made a survey [cite web
title=Meeting of 2001
] among States and NGOs to try to agree on a definition, and a Convention [cite web
title=Official website
] was adopted in 2003 for its protection.


According to the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, the intangible cultural heritage (ICH) – or living heritage – is the mainspring of our cultural diversity and its maintenance a guarantee for continuing creativity. It is defined as follows:

Intangible Cultural Heritage means the practices, representations, expressions, knowledge, skills – as well as the instruments, objects, artefacts and cultural spaces associated therewith – that communities, groups and, in some cases, individuals recognize as part of their cultural heritage. This intangible cultural heritage, transmitted from generation to generation, is constantly recreated by communities and groups in response to their environment, their interaction with nature and their history, and provides them with a sense of identity and continuity, thus promoting respect for cultural diversity and human creativity. For the purposes of this Convention, consideration will be given solely to such intangible cultural heritage as is compatible with existing international human rights instruments, as well as with the requirements of mutual respect among communities, groups and individuals, and of sustainable development.

This Convention - like the World Heritage Convention - developed a listing system (Representative list and Endangered list). The Intergovernmental Committee is currently working on criteria and procedures, and first inscriptions will be made in 2008 or 2009.

Oral history

Intangible cultural heritage is slightly different from the discipline of oral history, the recording, preservation and interpretation of historical information (specifically, oral tradition), based on the personal experiences and opinions of the speaker. ICH attempts to preserve cultural heritage 'with' the people or community by protecting the processes that allow traditions and shared knowledge to be passed on while oral history seeks to collect and preserve historical information obtained from individuals and groups.

Oral continuity

Intangible cultural heritage is passed orally within a community, and while there may be individuals who are known tradition bearers, ICH is often broader than one individual's own skills or knowledge.

Material culture

Traditional music

Reference notes

See also

*Concrete examples of Intangible Cultural Heritage: Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity
*Living human treasure
*Intangible culture
*oral history
*oral tradition

External links

* [ Definitions of Intangible Cultural Heritage] as of States, IGOs and NGOs in 2001
* [ Official website of the Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage]
* [ Full text of the Convention]
* [ Intangible Cultural Heritage website for Newfoundland and Labrador]

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