Cultural heritage  

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 This page Cultural heritage is part of the Ancient Greece series.   Photo: western face of the Parthenon
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This page Cultural heritage is part of the Ancient Greece series.
Photo: western face of the Parthenon

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Cultural heritage ("national heritage" or just "heritage") is the legacy of physical artifacts 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. Often though, what is considered cultural heritage by one generation may be rejected by the next generation, only to be revived by a succeeding generation.

Physical or "tangible cultural heritage" includes buildings and historic places, monuments, artifacts, etc., that are considered worthy of preservation for the future. These include objects significant to the archaeology, architecture, science or technology of a specific culture. "Natural heritage" is also an important part of a culture, encompassing the countryside and natural environment, including flora and fauna. These kind of heritage sites often serve as an important component in a country's tourist industry, attracting many visitors from abroad as well as locally.

The heritage that survives from the past is often unique and irreplaceable, which places the responsibility of preservation on the current generation. Smaller objects such as artworks and other cultural masterpieces are collected in museums and art galleries. Grass roots organizations and political groups have been successful at gaining the necessary support to preserve the heritage of many nations for the future.

Significant was the Convention Concerning the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage that was adopted by the General Conference of UNESCO in 1972. As of 2006, there are 830 World Heritage Sites: 644 cultural, 162 natural, and 24 mixed properties, in 138 countries. Each of these sites is considered important to the international community.

A broader definition includes intangible aspects of a particular culture, often maintained by social customs during a specific period in history. The ways and means of behavior in a society, and the often formal rules for operating in a particular cultural climate. These include social values and traditions, customs and practices, aesthetic and spiritual beliefs, artistic expression, language and other aspects of human activity. The significance of physical artifacts can be interpreted against the backdrop of socioeconomic, political, ethnic, religious and philosophical values of a particular group of people. Naturally, intangible cultural heritage is more difficult to preserve than physical objects.

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Theory and methods

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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Cultural heritage" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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