World Heritage Day encourages us to celebrate the world’s cultures and to raise awareness of cultural heritage – and the importance of preserving it.
In the light of the tragic Notre Dame fire earlier this is week, it is clear that our cultural heritage is not only great, it is also fragile! Our heritage is our history, it unites us, and it identifies us. Keeping it safe should be a goal of us all.
But let us not forget that heritage is more than buildings.
What is Cultural Heritage?
It is easy to think that cultural heritage is something from the past, but it evolves with our engagement with it. It comes in many shapes and forms, and can be enjoyed in many ways.
Every day, people across the globe celebrate their cultural heritage by simply going to the cinema, paying their respects at a religious site, or by appreciating art and literature. It’s not just on this one day a year that we benefit from the joint history and heritage of humanity!
Documentary heritage is a fundamental inheritance of our culture and historical memory, and its preservation is a key task for libraries all over the world.
This is a question that is not standing still. Debates about the preservation of documentary heritage have found a new focus in digital heritage, understood as collections that are the result of the knowledge or expression of human beings that often has no physical support, but rather a digital one.
Recognising the importance of this component of our heritage, UNESCO passed a recommendation in 2015 which called on Member States to do more to recognise the importance of cultural heritage, to and to pass the laws and support the institutions that make its survival possible. You can read more about the recommendation in our briefing.
How to celebrate World Heritage Day
Of course there is no point safeguarding heritage it if cannot be celebrated, and there are many ways to do this. One way you can mark World Heritage Day is to search for locations near you and pay them a visit! Many key heritage sites are registered at the UNESCO World Heritage List. Others can be found by a simple search online, or by asking your local tourist office!
If you prefer celebrating World Heritage Day from the comfort of your home, you can visit one of the many digital libraries. Be inspired by the many manuscripts from antique to the early print era at the Europeana Collections or read about endangered cultural heritage from around the world registered in the Memory of the World Register.
Whether you chose to celebrate off- or online, you can also consider how we can protect our heritage! Spread awareness about our heritage and its importance – you can start by sharing this story on your social media. Support local partners and volunteer either by signing up for a beach clean up or by helping out in your local library when needed. Encourage international cooperation in preserving our world’s cultural heritage.
Our cultural heritage – tangible, intangible and digital – represents our past and our future. We can make a difference today.