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Negotiating the preservation of minority intangible cultural heritage

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         According to Timothy and Boyd (2006, p2) “the range of resources that function as attractions in heritage tourism is extensive and the types and dimensions are manifold”. Furthermore, Timothy & Boyd (2006,p.1) stated that “heritage tourism, which typically falls under the purview of cultural tourism (and vice versa), is one of the most notable and widespread types of tourism and is among the very oldest forms of travel”. “The pervasiveness of heritage resources has put heritage tourism at the forefront of the industry in many parts of the world” (Timothy & Boyd, 2006,p.2). Heritage tourism can be tangible (examples are buildings, artefacts, etc.) and intangible (such as traditions, language, etc.), the focus of this paper is on the intangible form of heritage. One way of preserving local cultures is through “living museums”, to keep the living history alive by performances and story telling of the particular cultural community (Elsass, 1992 p.234). The term “museumification” can be understood as “the transition from a living city to that of an idealized re-presentation of itself, wherein everything is considered not for its use but for its value as a potential museum artefact” (Di Giovine, 2009; pp261).By highlighting the scope of heritage tourism and the form “living museum” as a mean by preserving intangible cultural heritage the following question arose: how to manage and preserve intangible cultural heritage of minority groups in the form of “living museums” in relation to tourism development?


         “Heritage is a complex and highly political phenomena” (Timothy & Boyd, 2006,p.2). This due to the involvement of a wide variety of stakeholders with their dispersed interests. As Scarpaci’s (2005, p.95) primary research concurs; heritage tourism is ‘not conflict free’ and ‘defining authenticity, heritage, and historic periods are difficult tasks’ which forms a risk of cultivating living museums in identical and universal cultural landscapes. “One example is social/collective amnesia, which refers to selective memory in relation to certain events and people, or a purposeful course of ignoring history” (Timothy and Boyd, 2006, p.3). “This has been a particularly poignant issue in the context of indigenous Africans in South Africa, Native Americans and African Americans in the United States, Aboriginal peoples in Australia, and even the Chinese in some parts of south-east Asia (Boniface & Fowler, 1993; Goudie et al., 1996; Jones, 1997; Leong, 1989, cited by Timothy and Boyd, 2006, p.3). As O’Faircheallaigh (2008, p.26) stated “Indigenous attempts to negotiate protection of their cultural heritage have not been subject to any systematic evaluation”.“This may provide the opportunity for those whose heritage or interpretation of the heritage exhibits has been ignored (Graham et al., 2000) to experience heritage spaces rather than just visit them” (cited by Poria, et al. 2006, p.69). Experience them through the representation of a heritage site as being preferably represented by the minority group. Especially minority groups have been oppressed, in the past or until this day and age, by the dominant culture in power, which has resulted in their pasts having been de-emphasised or even written out of official history in some cases (Timothy and Boyd, 2006, p.3). The problem of minority groups facing today is the loss of their identity, through years of denial and trying to erase the minority groups, the identity has been lost. Examples of causes of identity loss are through genocide, imprisoning and institutionalization. Nevertheless, as minority groups have been recognized, the preservation can begin, as they have been acknowledged as part of the nation's history. One way of preservation of intangible cultural preservation is through “living museum” where the culture is not in the form of a fossil that needs to be presented in its old form. Through the concept “living museum” the culture is seen as an ongoing dynamic process that is represented by the cultural group itself. As Scarpi's (2005, 220) suggested “living museums” are teemed with locals who maintain long-standing traditions and labour at tasks not always connected to tourism. The fact that the minority group is socially constructed by “attributes, challenges, and meanings of their own every day experiences” which in response “increasingly coexist with the forces of globalization” (Scarpi's, 2005, 220).


        The representation of intangible cultural aspects of a culture is difficult to realize in practice. In this paper, the concept of a “living museum” is seen as a great way to preserve a culture and treat culture as an ongoing dynamic process. The involvement of the specific cultural minority group creates the opportunity of achieving a unified voice of the represented culture. Telling the story from the minority group itself. This is not without problems because the term for minority groups includes more tribal peoples, while many members seen as part of this cultural group are living their live by the norms and practices of the dominant mainstream society. By defining the specific group that is represented with a cultural historical and current situational aspect. Nevertheless, as being a Dutch person, perceiving myself not as an average Dutch person while watching the voice of Holland or some other shows. On the other hand as soon as I reveal my national identity, this helps other world citizen to judge me, based on their perception of the Dutch culture. If this is fair? But it is just how the world works and through generalization, cultural discourses, misunderstandings and many more, it has its positive and negative sides. Further studies should be done on estimating the importance for the minority group of expressing themselves and representing themselves through “living museums”. As well as the importance of the “living museum” for the social acceptance in the mainstream dominant culture.





    Di Giovine, M. (2009)The heritage-scape, Lanham: Lexington Books.

    Elsass, P. (1992) Strategies for survival: the psychology of cultural resilience in ethnic minorities, New York university press, New York and London.

    Scarpaci, J. (2005) Plazas and Barrios: Heritage Tourism and Globalization in the Latin American

    Centro Historico, Tucson, AZ: University of Arizona Press.

    Timothy, D.J. and Boyd, S.W. (2006 ) Heritage Tourism in the 21st Century: Valued Traditions and New Perspectives, Journal of Heritage tourism, Vol. 1, No. 1, p. 1-16, DOI:10.1080/17438730608668462

    O’Faircheallaigh, C. (2008) Negotiating Cultural Heritage? Aboriginal-mining company agreements in Australia, Development and Change 39(1): 25–51. Institute of Social Studies Published by Blackwell Publishing, 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford OX4 2DQ, UK and 350 Main St., Malden, MA 02148, USA

    Poria, Y., Butler, R. and Airey, D. (2006) Tourist Perceptions of Heritage Exhibits: A Comparative Study from Israel, Journal of Heritage Tourism, 1:1, 51-72, DOI: 10.1080/17438730608668465


    Written by: Mirthe Martinius

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