Across the world, communities are increasingly turning to their heritage as a vital source of stability, identity, and livelihood as they face growing social, environmental, economic, political, and moral challenges, along with an increasingly homogenous global culture swamping their traditional values and customs. More and more communities are understanding the importance of re-establishing contact with their collective histories and heritage to maintain a healthy perspective on knowing who they are, where they have come from, and where they are heading. The more local communities are aware of this, the more they can acknowledge, understand, and celebrate their own place and the place that others have in human history. Unfamiliar cultures and locations begin to be seen not as threats, but as unique introductions to the different worlds of their fellow global citizens, and raising awareness of heritage helps the cultures of the world gain a better understanding and acceptance of each other’s differences.
Heritage encompasses natural, historic, tangible, intangible and spiritual elements and is that which is inherited from past generations, is a living, integral part of life today, and is the responsibility of current generations to protect and preserve for future generations. Heritage assets include sites, landscapes, gardens, monuments, historic buildings of all periods, culturally significant modern buildings and towns, archaeology, artistic expressions, ecosystems, indigenous knowledge systems, food ways, crafts, customs, traditions, rites, rituals, languages, events, memories, stories and more. Protecting, preserving, managing and utilising heritage assets empowers communities and is a shared responsibility between state and local governments, businesses and communities. Empowered communities revitalise and transform their neighbourhoods, villages, towns, and regions while enhancing their cultural, social, environmental, economic and political futures.They have a strong sense of cultural identity and expression (important for people’s sense of self and how they relate to others), and contribute positively to trust, reconciliation, and peace.
Culture is the realm of human freedom—its constraints and impossibilities are the boundaries within which we can create and innovate. (Andy Crouch).