#TBT The Importance of Cultural Heritage

Flags of many nations

Understanding our cultural heritage can give a sense of personal identity.
Image: Garry Wilmore via Flickr CC

*For this week’s #TBT, we wanted to take a look back at an article we shared about cultural heritage. February marked the annual recognition of Black History Month, and March holds St. Patrick’s Day, another cultural celebration. What better time to reflect upon your own cultural heritage and what it means to you than now?

Not everyone feels a connection with their cultural heritage, but many people do. What is it about cultural heritage that draws these people to it? Some may think traditions are archaic and no longer relevant, and that they are unnecessary during these modern times. Perhaps for some, they aren’t; but for others, exploring cultural heritage offers a robust variety of benefits.

Culture can give people a connection to certain social values, beliefs, religions and customs. It allows them to identify with others of similar mindsets and backgrounds. Cultural heritage can provide an automatic sense of unity and belonging within a group and allows us to better understand previous generations and the history of where we come from.

In large cities especially, it can be easy to feel lost and alone among so many other cultures and backgrounds. New York City, for example, is a huge melting pot of people from all over the country and the world. There are large communities based around certain cultural heritages, including Irish, Italian, Asian, and others.

An infographic of the Heritage Cycle.

A graphic of the Heritage Cycle originally developed by cultureindevelopment.nl.

Cultural heritage is made up of many things large and small. We can see it in the buildings, townscapes, and even in archaeological remains. Culture can be perceived through natural sources as well: the agriculture and landscapes associated with it. It is preserved through books, artifacts, objects, pictures, photographs, art, and oral tradition. Cultural heritage is in the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the religions we follow, and the skills we learn. Sometimes we can touch and see what makes up a culture; other times it is intangible.

The Heritage Cycle from Simon Thurley helps explain the process of finding and incorporating culture into our lives, if we wish to do so. It begins with understanding the culture. Only then may we begin to value it. From there, we can learn to care for a culture and eventually enjoy it. With more enjoyment, we will want to learn and understand more—and so the circle goes.

*Psssst! If you liked this article, check out Honoring the Cultural Heritage of Voodoo.

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