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  • Tomislav S. Šola

All Heritage is Intangible: Strategic Implications of the Concept


Museum is many things and will become still many more. For the moment being, the profession functions upon a definition which for a long time satisfies the majority of museum people but which in 2005 acquired a new quality: museums were supposed to care for intangible heritage to. The latter, of course, changes the very notion of collecting and, consequently, of the museum forms. Putting ICH into the official ICOM definition brought about some reminders:

  • Marking the end of museum age and the beginning of heritage age.

  • Implying that PMIs are places of ideas and concepts, not objects

  • Making non-collecting museums more logical

  • Signalling that we should be returning what we have taken: literally and in the sense of getting there ourselves: museums on the spot, in situ, are the best demonstration of their nature as mechanisms of selection and continuity.

  • Asserting implicitly that we may be about value systems and not about selecting, storing and interpreting objects

  • Demonstrating that objects are just tokens of memory; the images that serve as reminders, as storages of elusive knowledge and experiences, as sedimentation of the lost reality, as mnemotechnic triggers for contextual and symbolic meanings;

  • Collections as well as all public memory institutions (PMI) are means towards the goal not the goal itself.

  • Reminding of J. C. Dana who said that a collection in a museum is not a museum but a collection and of K. Hudson’s sentence: “A stuffed tiger in a museum is not a tiger but a stuffed tiger in a museum”

All heritage is intangible, but only some is materialized in tangible objects. PMIs are places of memory disregarding in which medium or mode it has been stored, cared for, retrieved or communicated.

(T. Sola, lecture distributed in Moscow, Intermusea; 2017.)


Bavarian highlanders fire volleys from hand-held mortars to mark the Christmas holidays in southern Germany;

As Christians mark Holy Week, members of the Spanish Legion carry the Christ of the Good Death to a church in Malaga;

In Jammu, India, a man dressed as the god Shiva dances during a Shivratri procession, ahead of a Hindu festiva;

Indian (in brown) and Pakistani (in black) guards perform their daily "retreat" ceremony on the border at Wagah;

A Japanese traditional dancer drinks sake - rice wine - during a New Year ceremony in Kyoto, Japan;

Tibetan Buddhist monks converse after a ceremony at Labrang Monastery,

the second largest Tibetan monastery in existence, in the town of Xiahe.

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