Cultural Heritage

The glossary entries are the result of a collaborative process among OpenHeritage consortium partners and have undergone an internal review. However, they only express the perspective of the authors listed under each term, not of all partners. You can find information on the glossary production process and the full glossary here.

Martina Bosone
Institute for Research on Innovation and Services for Development of National Research Council (IRISS-CNR), Naples, Italy,

Antonia Gravagnuolo
Institute for Research on Innovation and Services for Development of National Research Council (IRISS-CNR), Naples, Italy,

Short definition

Cultural heritage is characterized by the «value of memory» (Riegl 1903) which today has a twofold meaning: first of all, it represents the value of “what has been” and in this sense it constitutes a testimony for the present generation, from which to learn. Therefore, the recognition of this value implies that present generations must respect its tangible and intangible expressions to preserve and transmit it to future generations (Council of Europe 2009). The Burra Charter (Australia ICOMOS 2013) highlighted for the first time the active role of local community groups in giving «cultural significance» (art.1.2) to cultural heritage, through the recognition of its tangible and intangible values. This interpretation process represents a starting point for the recognition of the connections between people and cultural heritage and, for this reason, of the interpretation of Cultural Heritage as “common good” (European Parliament 2015; Rojas 2018).

Key discussions around the term

The Athens Charter (1931) (Iamandi 1997) and later the Venice Charter (Icomos 1964) are the foundations in setting the international guidelines on the conservation and restoration of monuments and sites, recognizing the importance of urban or rural setting as the memory of a particular age and enlarging the attribution of a cultural significance both to great and modest works (Art. 1).

The definition of Outstanding Universal Values (OUV) (UNESCO 1972) was crucial for the identification of assets considered as “cultural heritage”, but it included only monuments, groups of buildings and sites, without intangible heritage.

In the subsequent years, the notion of cultural heritage slowly emerges also in terms of intangible heritage, recognizing its value as a founding element of societies and highlighting their responsibility in respecting and managing it (ICOMOS 1994). Following the Japanese Law for Protection of Cultural Property of 1950 (Japanese Government Agency for Cultural Affairs 1950), UNESCO highlighted the role of intangible heritage as a “vital factor for cultural identity, the promotion of creativity and the preservation of cultural diversity” (UNESCO 2000, 3). The increasing attention to a more holistic approach in the definition of the culture heritage (Jokilehto 2005) has determined its interpretation as a result of the human creative process (UNESCO 2001, Art. 7) and, for this reason, “of common importance for present and future generations” (UNESCO 2005, Art. 49). 

On this basis, the definition of “Historic Urban Landscape (HUL)” (UNESCO World Heritage Centre 2008) laid the foundations for the definition of Recommendation on Historic Urban Landscape (UNESCO 2011b) in which cultural and natural heritage were integrated into a dynamic perspective, including also human, social and economic issues.

This approach has highlighted the consideration of cultural heritage as a “complex system” (Angrisano et al. 2016) characterized by a “complex social value” (Fusco Girard 1987; Fusco Girard and Nijkamp 1997) which includes also its “intrinsic value” (Fusco Girard and Nijkamp 1997). The latter represents the “glue value” (Turner 1993; de Groot et al. 2012; Ehrlich and Roughgarden 1987), the “essential meaning” (Riegl 1903) of heritage assets, determining a dynamic interaction both between people and a site and among people of the same community. These “circular bonds” (Fusco Girard 2020) shaping the space through an evolutionary process (Fusco Girard and Nocca 2019), highlighting the role of people in producing and recognizing it over time as a permanence to be preserved in the continuous dynamics of the city/territory (Fusco Girard and Vecco 2019; Fusco Girard and Vecco 2021). Thus emerges the necessity to develop innovative civic engagement tools, knowledge and planning tools, financial tools, and regulatory systems (UNESCO 2011a, Art. 24).

Starting from this approach, the “cultural significance” of places was interpreted as the range of all tangible and intangible values derived from interactions between human activity and physical environment, complemented with the wide range of values and understandings attributed to them (Smith 2006, 1).

Today it is well established that «tangible and intangible heritage are integral parts of a city’s identity, creating a sense of belonging and cohesion. […]. This vision has received new energy with the explicit recognition of the role of culture as an enabler of sustainable development, and as one of the key conditions to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 11 to “[m]ake cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable” (UNESCO 2016, 6).

Reference list

Angrisano, M., P.F. Biancamano, M. Bosone, P. Carone, G. Daldanise, F. De Rosa, A. Franciosa, et al. 2016. “Towards Operationalizing UNESCO Recommendations on”Historic Urban Landscape”: A Position Paper.” Aestimum 69.

Australia ICOMOS. 2013. “The Australia ICOMOS Charter for Places of Cultural Significance, 2013.” The Burra Charter.

Council of Europe. 2009. Heritage and Beyond. Nature. Vol. 477. Council of Europe Publishing.

Ehrlich, P., and J. Roughgarden. 1987. “The Science of Ecology.” In The Science of Ecology.

European Parliament. 2015. “REPORT towards an Integrated Approach to Cultural Heritage for Europe.” Representation. Vol. 12.

Fusco Girard L.; Nijkamp P. 1997. Le Valutazioni per Lo Sviluppo Sostenibile Della Città e Del Territorio.

Milano: Franco Angeli.

Fusco Girard, L.; and M. Vecco. 2021. “The ‘Intrinsic Value’ of Cultural Heritage as Driver for Circular

Human-Centered Adaptive Reuse.” Sustainability (Switzerland) 13 (6): 3231.

Fusco Girard, Luigi. 1987. Risorse Architettoniche e Culturali: Valutazioni e Strategie Di Conservazione.

Milano: Franco Angeli.

Fusco Girard, Luigi. 2020. “The Circular Economy in Transforming a Died Heritage Site into a Living

Ecosystem, to Be Managed as a Complex Adaptive Organism.” Aestimum.

Fusco Girard, Luigi, and Francesca Nocca. 2019. “La Rigenerazione Del ‘Sistema Matera’ Nella Prospettiva Dell’economia Circolare.” In Matera, Città Del Sistema Ecologico Uomo/Società/Natura Il Ruolo Della Cultura per La Rigenerazione Del Sistema Urbano/Territoriale, edited by Luigi Fusco Girard, Claudia Trillo, and Martina Bosone, 69–100. Naples: Giannini Publisher.

Fusco Girard, Luigi, and Marilena Vecco. 2019. “Genius Loci: The Evaluation of Places between Instrumental and Intrinsic Values.” BDC. Bollettino Del Centro Calza Bini.

de Groot, Rudolf, Luke Brander, Sander van der Ploeg, Robert Costanza, Florence Bernard, Leon Braat, Mike Christie, et al. 2012. “Global Estimates of the Value of Ecosystems and Their Services in Monetary Units.” Ecosystem Services.

Iamandi, Cristina. 1997. “The Charters of Athens of 1931 and 1933: Coincidence, Controversy and Convergence.” Conservation and Management of Archaeological Sites 2 (1): 17–28.

Icomos. 1964. “International Charter for the Conservation and Restoration of Monuments and Sites (The Venice Charter 1964).” IInd International Congress of Architects and Technicians of Historic Monuments.

ICOMOS. 1994. “The Nara Document on Authenticity.” The Nara Document on Authenticity (1994). Japanese Government Agency for Cultural Affairs. 1950. “Law for the Protection of Cultural Property,” no. 214: 1–120.

Jokilehto, J. 2005. “Definition of Cultural Heritage: References to Documents in History.” ICCROM Working Group “Heritage and Society,” no. January: 4–8.

Riegl, Alois. 1903. “Entwurf Einer Gesetzlichen Organisation Der Denkmalpflege in Ősterreich, Wien: Bundesdenkmalamt Ősterreich (Progetto Di Una Organizzazione Legislativa Della Conservazione in Austria—Il Culto Moderno Dei Monumenti).” In Alois Riegl: Teoria e Prassi Della Conservazione Die Monumenti, edited by S. Scarrocchia, 216–26. Bologna: Clueb.

Rojas, Eduardo. 2018. “The Sustainable Conservation of Urban Heritage.” In Urban Heritage, Development and Sustainability.

Smith, Laurajane. 2006. Uses of Heritage. Uses of Heritage.

Turner, R. Kerry. 1993. Sustainable Environmental Economics and Management: Principles and Practice. Belhaven Pr.

UNESCO. 1972. Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage.

UNESCO. 2000. “Proclamation of Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity: Implementation Guide.”

UNESCO. 2001. UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity.

UNESCO. 2005. “Vienna Memorandum.” Memorándum de Viena. Document WHC-05/29.COM/5.

UNESCO. 2011a. “Recommendation on the Historic Urban Landscape, Including a Glossary of Definitions.” UNESCO, Resources, Conventions, Recommendations. 2011.

UNESCO. 2011b. “Recommendation on the Historic Urban Landscape.” Paris: UNESCO World Heritage Centre.

UNESCO. 2016. “Culture Urban Future: Global Report on Culture for Sustainable Urban Development.” Paris. UNESCO World Heritage Centre. 2008. “Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention.” Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World HeritageConvention, no. July.