Heritage as a Socio-Cultural Construct: Problems of Definition


  • Kurmo Konsa




Kurmo Konsa: Heritage as a Socio-Cultural Construct:
Problems of Definition
Keywords: cultural heritage, socio-cultural construct,
heritage process
The 20th and 21st century society is definitely characterised by the extremely rapid development of science, technology and social systems, but also by a desire to consciously preserve the valuable part of our past and present for future generations. Heritage issues related to the development of society have become increasingly important. Heritage has always existed, but people are now aware of its existence, it is being researched and attempts are being made to start consciously shaping it. The increased political interest in heritage is related to this. The visibility and significance of heritage in contemporary societies is growing. In this respect, heritage has become an increasingly important factor in culture politics and this is true of all the various levels of society. Heritage can be used for very different objectives and in very different ways. When dealing with cultural heritage, it is important to keep the following three dimensions in mind. Firstly, the possible range of heritage objects and phenomena; secondly, at what level of society heritage is being
dealt with; and thirdly, what are the values on which theĀ  definition of heritage is based. The approach to these three heritage dimensions helps to create the framework for the procedural modelling of heritage. Namely, the procedural approach stresses the fact that the people and societies that exist today are not passive recipients, keepers and transmitters of heritage, but rather, active creators and shapers of their heritage. The heritage process forms the basis for defining heritage based on the various levels of society. Heritage is simultaneously a part of the physical reality and an intangible phenomenon. The article makes an attempt to unite both poles of heritage, and to consider the utilisation and context of heritage. Heritage links people to each other, and to the environment, and is one of the forms of expression for our humanity. By relying on heritage, recreating it, and by loading it with significant meaning, people shape the way that societies function.

Kurmo Konsa is an Associated Professor at the Department of Archival Studies at the University of Tartu, and Professor of Conservation at Tartu Art College. He owns an M.Sc in microbiology from the University of Tartu, and an MA in Book Science from Tallinn University. Kurmo Konsa holds a doctoral degree in Informational Science from Tallinn University. His doctoral work focuses on preservation of written heritage and preservation surveys issues. In the past he has worked at Tartu
University Library as paper conservator and at Estonian Postal Museum as conservator and curator of collections.


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