Intangible cultural heritage is the living heritage which is present in people’s everyday lives, encompassing all forms of human activity. For example, it can be knowledge and skills relating to oral traditions, performing arts, festivities and practices, crafts, or nature and the universe. These can then take form of objects, different forms of expression, or even food and games.
Intangible cultural heritage includes phenomena which are preserved, alive and changing, from one generation to the next. Cultural heritage has many forms, and it can take on characteristics from the neighbouring village just as easily as from the other side of the world. It gains its strength from communities and is dependant on those who pass on knowledge, skills and practices. It is the communities themselves which define the value and significance of living heritage.
The Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage was adopted in 2003 at UNESCO’s General Conference. Currently 180 states have ratified the Convention. The aim of the Convention is to promote the identification and safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage.
Finland ratified the Convention in 2013, and the Finnish Heritage Agency is responsible for its realisation in Finland, in collaboration with a multisectoral network of operators and living heritage circles.
Information about inventorying
The UNESCO Convention also includes inventorying of intangible cultural heritage. An inventory is a tool which can be used to identify, describe and transmit knowledge about living heritage. It can include traditions and know-how which have spread far and wide, as well as the customs of small local groups. The Wiki-inventory provides the opportunity to glean new information about living cultural heritage in Finland.
In Finland the inventorying will be carried out on two levels. This Wiki-inventory for Living Heritage presents examples of intangible cultural heritage in Finland. An open, wiki-based inventory offers different communities an opportunity to present their own intangible cultural heritage. At the same time, the inventory provides an opportunity to partake in the safeguarding the diversity of living heritage. The inventory is a living document that is constantly being supplemented and updated. The work is only in its initial stages, as this kind of heritage is continuous.
Submissions for the Wiki-inventory for Living Heritage have been collected since February 2016. The Wiki-inventory now contains over 180 submissions from approximately 250 communities in five different languages! Elements within the Wiki-inventory can be suggested for the National inventory of intangible cultural heritage. Articles in both inventories need to be updated every three years.
Under the Convention, UNESCO maintains two lists of intangible cultural heritage and a register of good safeguarding practices. The purpose of the lists and the register is to create visibility for the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage in different parts of the world, and to spread good practices between countries.
The sauna culture in Finland was inscribed on UNESCO’s List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in December 2020. The next national application submitted by Finland will be about Kaustinen fiddle playing. Finland is also a participant in the multinational application on the Nordic clinker boat tradition. Decisions on both are expected to be reached in December 2021.
Feel free to send any questions or comments! aineetonkulttuuriperinto(at)museovirasto.fi.