What is Intangible Cultural Heritage?

Cultural heritage includes the traditions or living expressions of groups and communities, such as oral traditions, performing arts, social practices, rituals, festive events, knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe or the knowledge and skills to produce traditional crafts. While these may not be tangible – they cannot be touched – they are a very important part of our cultural heritage. This is Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH), a living form of heritage which is continuously recreated and which evolves as communities adapt their practices and traditions in response to their environment.

It provides a sense of identity and belonging in relation to our own cultures which in turn promotes respect and understanding for the cultures of others. People play the key role in the creation and carrying forward of ICH. Communities, collectively, are the ones who create, carry and transmit ICH. A community might share an expression of intangible cultural heritage that is similar to one practiced by others.
While ICH expressions can have either material or non-material outcomes, the key distinction between intangible and tangible cultural heritage is that the former are living examples of human creativity and ingenuity, embedded in the community.

The approach to ICH in Scotland is an inclusive approach which respects the diversity of Scotland’s communities. It is underpinned by UNESCO’s 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, which is intended to raise awareness of, respect for, and safeguard ICH worldwide.

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About This Website

This website builds on a previous site developed by Edinburgh Napier University, funded by the AHRC, which was handed over to Museums Galleries Scotland (MGS) in November 2011.

MGS has developed the new site to enable greater ease for users when searching / browsing the site and contributing content.
This site aims to:

  • provide a dynamic record of Scotland’s ICH practices
  • promote general awareness of ICH in Scotland
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About Museums Galleries Scotland

Museums Galleries Scotland is the National Development Body for the museum sector in Scotland. Our role is to work collaboratively to invest in and develop a sustainable museum and galleries sector for Scotland, in line with the aims of 'Going Further: The National Strategy for Scotland’s Museums and Galleries.' See more …

We work with a sector of over 400 museums and galleries, supporting and enabling them to meet their objectives in a number of ways including, though strategic investment, advice, advocacy and skills development opportunities.

MGS is a non-governmental organisation accredited by UNESCO as an expert adviser on the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, and an active participant in the ICH NGO Forum.

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