Tangible and intangible heritage

Material heritage is all tangible property, movable or immovable, that has been created by social groups in the past.

Intangible heritage is any asset of an intangible nature that makes up the cultural legacy of a group.

Both tangible and intangible heritage constitute cultural heritage, that is, the cultural heritage that a social group transmits to new generations, and that is what characterizes and makes them unique.

Tangible heritageIntangible heritage
DefinitionIt is the set of tangible creations of a community that have a historical, cultural or natural relevance.They are intangible cultural expressions that define a community.
  • Architectural heritage.
  • Archaeological heritage.
  • Artistic and historical heritage.
  • Industrial heritage.
  • Natural heritage.
  • Oral traditions and expressions.
  • Art and shows.
  • Social uses, rituals and festive events.
  • Traditional craft techniques.
  • The Parthenon in Athens, Greece.
  • The Great Buddha of Leshan, China.
  • The university city of Caracas, Venezuela.
  • The ancient Mayan city and the protected tropical forests of Calakmul, Mexico.
  • Traditional Tibetan medicine.
  • The reggae of Jamaica.
  • The sung stories of the Ifugao community in the Philippines.
  • The dance, dance and language of the Garifuna in Central America.

What is tangible heritage?

Material heritage, or tangible cultural heritage, encompasses all material creations made by groups or communities in past times and which, due to their characteristics, are considered relevant in the evolution of a society or people.

The material heritage classification was created by UNESCO in 1973, and the assets that are part of this list are considered “invaluable and irreplaceable”, due to their historical-cultural value.

Tangible heritage can be made up of:

  • Movable property : are all those creations that can be transported (from small artifacts to large-format works of art).
  • Real estate : are all creations that, by their nature, cannot be separated from the environment to which they belong. Such is the case of architectural works or those that are integrated into nature, such as cave paintings.

Movable or immovable property has sub-classifications that depend on the legislation of each country. The most common categories are architectural, archaeological, artistic and historical, industrial and natural heritage.

Architectural heritage

It refers to all the constructions that reflect a relevant moment for the society that owns said heritage. Buildings, houses or monuments are some examples.

The campus of the Autonomous University of Mexico is an architectural material heritage.

Archaeological heritage

Archaeological heritage is considered to be any movable or immovable property that is found on the surface, subsoil or jurisdictional waters that requires an archaeological methodology for its study and that can provide relevant information on activities or ways of life in the history of humanity.

Paleontological remains, fossils, human remains, flora and fauna belong to this category.

Machu Pichu, in Peru, is an archaeological material heritage.

Artistic and historical heritage

It is all the production of movable and immovable property that serves to illustrate historical periods prior to the present. This includes everything from ancient structures, clothing or artifacts, to audiovisual resources (documentaries, films, etc.).

The historic center of Córdoba, in Andalusia (Spain), is a historical material heritage.

Industrial heritage

They are all the goods created since the Industrial Revolution to carry out production processes, and that serve to illustrate or understand historical, social, cultural or industrial changes. An old factory, a disused machine or old means of transport are examples of this category.

The shoe supplies factory in Alfeld, Germany, is considered an industrial heritage and is still in operation.

Natural heritage

They are all the natural wealth that a society has inherited. This includes from natural formations, protected places or habitats of animal or plant species in danger of extinction.

Canaima National Park, in Venezuela, is considered a natural heritage.

What is intangible heritage?

Intangible heritage or intangible cultural heritage is the set of traditions, knowledge, techniques and customs that are practiced and inherited from one generation to another, keeping alive the sense of identity of a social group.

This classification was created by UNESCO in 2003, and according to this body, it includes oral traditions and expressions, performing arts, social uses, rituals and festive events, knowledge and uses related to nature and the universe, and traditional craft techniques.

Oral traditions and expressions

They are all the spoken forms in which cultural and social values ​​are transmitted, as well as knowledge that is passed from one generation to another and helps to build collective memory.

Oral expressions include myths, legends, narratives, nursery rhymes, poems, sayings, etc. It also includes language, since it is the vehicle that allows oral expression. In this sense, it is understood that the loss of a language implies the disappearance of all the oral traditions of a community.

The hudhud, the sung stories of the Ifugao community in the Philippines are an example of oral tradition.

See also Custom and tradition

Performing arts

Includes music, dances, plays, sung poetry, etc. These types of demonstrations often serve to tell the story of a community, in addition, in many places they constitute an essential part of its tourist activity, such as the carnivals of Barranquilla, in Colombia.

See also acculturation and transculturation

Social uses, rituals and festive acts

They are all the customs that give life to a community, since they provide it with unique characteristics. Generally, these rituals have been created to mark an important event (change of season, stages of life, etc.), for this reason they are indispensable in the construction of individual and collective identity.

An example of this type of heritage can be found in Seoul, South Korea. There, on the first Sunday in May, a rite is held at the Jongmyo Shrine, offering food and drink to the spirits of the ancestors.

Knowledge and uses related to nature and the universe

It comprises the set of knowledge that a community has compiled over generations in its relationship with nature. This knowledge can include rituals of passage, traditional medicine, shamanic practices, and rites of possession.

The worldview of the Kallawayas, an ethnic group from Bolivia, includes a medicinal system based on the properties of almost a thousand local plants, and is an example of intangible heritage.

Traditional craft techniques

Although crafts are a tangible expression of the culture of a community, this classification of intangible heritage refers to the knowledge that is required (and its generational transmission) to keep the heritage of a social group alive.

Batik, the technique of weaving cotton and silk by hand, is very representative in Indonesia and they are intangible heritage. The prints are loaded with symbols that reflect the worldview of that culture and are used not only on ceremonial occasions, but on a day-to-day basis.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *