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Cultural Heritage Toolbox

The United Nations celebrated in 2002 the International Year of Cultural Heritage.  As part of the celebration they published the components of what constitutes the cultural heritage of a place.  CitiesxDesign uses the UN definitions of cultural heritage as a way to better understand a city and community.  The below list serves as a checklist when we visit places.

1. Archaeological Sites
Archaeological sites are a unique testimony to past civilizations. They are frequently associated with ideas or beliefs that have marked the history of man since the beginning of time.

2. Historic Cities

This heritage and its accumulation over time comprises buildings, streets, districts and residents and should be regarded as the force and foundation of all type of social and economic development.

3. Cultural Landscapes
Cultural landscapes bear witness to humanity’s creative genius, technical, economic and social development, imagination and cultural wealth.

4. Natural Sacred Sites
Since the beginning of time, most of the world’s peoples have regarded mountaintops and forests as places of mystery and spiritual elevation where gods and spirits dwell. Their very sight inspires prayer, contemplation and calm.

5. The Underwater Cultural Heritage
The law of the sea accords a special status to archaeological and historical objects that are located underwater

6. Museums
A museum’s primary purpose is to safeguard and preserve cultural heritage as a whole.  They are vital links to our past.

7. The Movable Cultural Heritage
The cultural heritage consists of a great deal more than just the paintings and sculptures exhibited in museums: it also comprises jewelry, grave-goods, sacred art, sculpted stone.  It’s basically all kinds of art that are ancient or still in the hands of their creators, or on the market or in private collections.

8. Handicrafts
A crafts person embodies a trade and expertise that are native to an area or locale..

9. Documentary and Digital Heritage
Born-digital heritage available on-line, including electronic journals, World Wide Web pages or on-line databases, is now an integral part of the world’s cultural heritage.

10. The Cinematographic Heritage
For the people whom films bring something extra, things exotic or familiar, the cinema is one of the most delightful of all expressions of cultural heritage.

11. Oral Traditions
Oral traditions are powerful forms of cultural transmission in all cultures. Genealogies, epics, rituals, customs, recipes and techniques still rely largely on oral transmission.

12. Languages
Languages respond constantly to a changing environment, ceaselessly taking on new meanings. However, as they are rooted in the life of a community, their survival may well depend on the value that the community attaches to their vitality and transmission.

13. Festive Events
Are very often an important forum for the expression of shared values and traditions of a community or society as a whole, and may include performance arts (music, dance and song) and oral traditions.

14. Rites and Beliefs
Rites are a conveyance and an expression of a social order that punctuates the lives of individuals and communities: rites of passage, seasonal rites and rites marking the stages of life from birth to death and which have an existential and social meaning.

15. Music and Song
The universality of music can be heard in love songs, lullabies, chants, epics, laments, protest songs and work songs.

16. The Performing Arts
The performing arts are a symbolic expression of shared cultural values, particularly in terms of aesthetics, beliefs and creativity.

17. Traditional Medicine
Traditional medicine encompasses a large number of practices, approaches, knowledge and beliefs that include remedies drawn from plant, animal or mineral extracts, in addition to spiritual, manual or psychological techniques such as massage, meditation and acupuncture.

18. Literature
Literature provides us with an aesthetically configured window and reflection on life, on the world and on things around us.

19. Culinary Traditions
The practice of transforming and cooking foodstuffs for consumption is peculiar to human beings. Even though feeding is common to all living creatures, as it happens, the act of cooking, or in other words altering and combining several foods, is a distinctly human habit

20. Traditional Sports and Games
Games give the community an opportunity to demonstrate its interpretation of life and the world. A society’s games and sports are revealing in that they throw light on the relations between generations, on individuals or groups, on physical or mental strength, and on conceptions of nature and the universe.

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