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V I . 1
P ro v i d i n g v i s i o n : A d i ve r s e a n d m u l t i l i n g u a l
c u l t u ra l h e r i t a g e a s i n t e g ra t i n g f a c t o r
Culture is - in its broadest sense - a "product" of our everyday life. It is a performance
which fades into memory and finally slips away. Consequently, if there are no mechanisms
that keep and maintain records of cultural "production", these cultural products are lost.
What we have to keep in mind, however, is that there is no cultural heritage per se.What
counts and can ultimately survive as cultural heritage is an outcome not of universal ideas
and objective criteria, but of selections which are motivated by particular political, social
and cultural interests, academic disciplines and professions (e.g. arts & humanities) as well as
market mechanisms.These selection criteria decide whether there is "a future for the past"
for particular cultural artefacts. (cf. Peacock, 1994)
Yet, in the past decades, the meaning of "culture" has undergone a far-reaching change
with the effect that today there is no shared agreement in society that can serve as an
authoritative definition of what we mean by cultural heritage.This raises the question:
What are we going to maintain as our collective memory for the next generations? - or
more importantly:What will be left out from our future cultural heritage?
The changing meanings of culture: Towards a socially integrative cultural
heritage policy
As Paul Streeten of Boston University,World Development Institute, describes this
"dilemma":"More than thirty years ago ,culture` stood for the values we thought all of
humanity shared.Today it has come to mean almost the opposite: what every little group,
regional, sexual, ethnic, religious, differentiates from others, asserts its identity.The transition
from ,Culture` to many cultures or from a global culture to many minicultures has meant a
change from universal humanity to the diversity of subcultures, every one often highly
antagonistic and hostile to others." (Streeten, 2000: p. 42) Streeten points to a clash of
cultures within a society, but there are also cultural contradictions in the global perspective.
(see: Barber, 1996; Jameson, Miyoshi, 1998;Wilson, Dissanayake, 1996)
Furthermore, the traditional canon of "high" vs."low" cultural artefacts is questioned. As
Daniel Bluestone, Director of the Historic Preservation Program at the University of
Virginia, has pointed out:"The preservation and conservation field tends to be imprecise in
its arguments because, for a long time, we assumed that there was total agreement on the
values and benefits of our work.We adopted a somewhat high-style, canonical approach to
cultural benefits. But this sense of a shared appreciation based on art-historical values has
fractured in the last fifteen to twenty years." (Bluestone et al, 1998: p. 21)
Of course, the "democratisation" of cultural expression due to the explosion of online
publishing will put a heavy burden on memory institutions:"Digital cultural artefacts are
not the property of cultural elites, for this medium is profoundly democratic millions of
people are creating cultural artefacts in intangible forms, using computers and networks.
Neither are they archived by the traditional cultural institutions organised nor funded by
cultural elites." (Lyman, Kahle, 1998) In the future, many different "micro-cultures" will
demand to be present in society's memory with their own cultural record.
Similarly, as the traditional canon of valuable cultural artefacts and the basic distinction
between "high"- vs."low" culture becomes increasingly blurred, popular, everyday, regional
or community-based elements of cultural heritage will become an important part of our
future cultural heritage. It also has to be kept in mind that with regards to exploitation
collections of popular culture items might be more interesting than high culture resources.