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Introduction to Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH)

What is Intangible Cultural Heritage?

Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) includes the traditions, practices or living expressions of groups and communities, such as oral traditions, performing arts, social practices, rituals, festive events and traditional crafts. While these may not be tangible, they are a very important part of our cultural heritage: a living form of heritage which is continuously recreated, evolving 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.

In Scotland, we use an inclusive approach to ICH which respects the diversity of Scotland's communities. We refer to 'ICH in Scotland' rather than 'Scottish ICH'.

What does this mean for museums?

Museums are often places where people learn about and encounter ICH practices being demonstrated. In addition, museums care for objects and collections which relate to ICH practices - for example the tools/instruments used in a practice and objects that are created as a result of ICH practices - and can provide the inspiration for the development of new expression of ICH.

ICH in Scotland website

In 2007 MGS commissioned Edinburgh Napier University to scope ICH in Scotland. Amongst the suggestions included in the resulting report, 'Intangible Cultural Heritage in Scotland: the way forward', was the development of a wiki site for capturing examples of ICH practice in Scotland. This site was redeveloped in 2015 and provides a place to put information about cultural practices that happen in their community. The site is universally accessible, with everyone invited to add content, and museums are in an ideal position to help build this dynamic record of Scotland's ICH practices. If you, or your contacts would like to contribute, please visit the website.

Our role

MGS became involved in working in this area in 2007 following requests for development support in ICH from Scotland's museums and galleries. We continue to support museums in this area and help identify opportunities for development and collaboration.

In 2012 MGS became the first UK organisation to become accredited as an expert NGO advisor to UNESCO on the 2003 UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage. We are an active member of the NGO Forum, which provides a place for the NGOs to share learning and to support each other in their roles as expert NGO advisors.

The 2003 UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage provides a framework for working in this area. To find out more about the convention and how it works, visit the convention web pages.

'For Everyone' international symposium

MGS organised the International Symposium on the role of ICH in identities and sustainable community development in November 2015, in partnership with Traditional Arts and Cultural Scotland (TRACS) and supported by Creative Scotland. The programme included Scottish and international experts in the field, with attendees including museums, policy makers, ICH practitioners and academics.

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Traditional Irish instruments
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