Our shared cultural heritage is at the heart of the European way of life. It surrounds us in our towns and cities, natural landscapes and archaeological sites. It is literature, art and monuments, crafts learnt from our ancestors, the stories we tell our children, the food we enjoy and the films we watch and in which we recognise ourselves. Cultural heritage defines who we are and strengthens our sense of belonging to a common European family. We all belong to a peaceful community of more than 500 million citizens with rich histories and interwoven cultures.
Cultural heritage shapes our everyday lives. It surrounds us in Europe’s towns and cities, natural landscapes and archaeological sites. It is not only found in literature, art and objects, but also in the crafts we learn from our ancestors, the stories we tell our children, the food we enjoy and the films we watch and recognise ourselves in.
Cultural heritage includes
Our right to enjoy the arts, and to participate in the cultural life of the community is included in the United Nation’s 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights
(1) Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.
(2) Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.
The Council of Europe Framework Convention on the Value of Cultural Heritage for the Society (Faro, 2005) gives most comprehensive definition of cultural heritage, embracing its tangible, intangible and digital dimension in a holistic way:
Cultural Heritage is a group of resources inherited from the past, which people identify, independently of ownership, as a reflection and expression of their constantly evolving values, beliefs, knowledge and transitions. It includes all aspects of the environment resulting from the interaction between people and places through time (Faro 2005).
The Framework establishes a set of four principles and five main areas of continued action for Europe’s cultural heritage:
4 key principles
Evidence-based policy making
5 areas of continued action
an inclusive Europe: participation and access for all
a sustainable Europe: smart solutions for a cohesive and sustainable future
a resilient Europe: safeguarding endangered heritage
an innovative Europe: mobilising knowledge and research
a stronger global partnership: reinforcing international cooperation
Europe’s cultural heritage is a rich and diverse mosaic of cultural and creative expressions, an inheritance from previous generations of Europeans and a legacy for those to come. It includes natural, built and archaeological sites, museums, monuments, artworks, historic cities, literary, musical and audiovisual works, and the knowledge, practices and traditions of European citizens.
Cultural heritage enriches the individual lives of citizens, is a driving force for the cultural and creative sectors, and plays a role in creating and enhancing Europe’s social capital. It is also an important resource for economic growth, employment and social cohesion, offering the potential to revitalise urban and rural areas and promote sustainable tourism.