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Every three years, ICOM’s General Conference gathers the international museum community around a theme chosen by the museum professionals.
Cultural heritage does not only embrace the tangible expressions like monuments and objects throughout the years.
It also includes the living expressions like the traditions that many groups and communities worldwide have been passed down by their ancestors and will continue to pass on to their descendants, mostly by word of mouth. Although it is the motor of cultural diversity, this heritage is fragile.
The International Council of Museums serves society and its development and is committed to guaranteeing the protection, conservation and transfer of cultural goods. Museums can contribute significantly to the protection of intangible cultural heritage by means of recordings and transcriptions.
Thus, ICOM commits itself to protecting the intangible heritage identifying and managing resources along with UNESCO who adopted in 2003, the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage. This Convention represents a milestone in the evolution of the international policies on cultural diversity. For the first time, the global community had recognized the importance of supporting this kind of cultural expression that had not benefited from any legal framework until then.
ICOM’s commitment is important for facing globalisation, which represents a new threat for the transmission of the intangible heritage in some cultural contexts.
In October 2002, the Shanghai Charter: Museums, intangible heritage and globalisation was developed, following the workshop on museums and intangible heritage (7th Regional Assembly of ICOM Asia-Pacific Regional Alliance).
“Museums and Intangible Heritage” was the theme of ICOM’s General Conference in Seoul, 2004. The International Journal of Intangible Heritage, an academic and professional journal dedicated to the promotion of the understanding of every aspect of intangible heritage worldwide, is one of the results of this Conference.