Unesco Living Human Treasures: the case of France

As a living heritage, the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage is tightly related to the capacity of its bearers to instill its continuance particularly in terms of the transmission of relevant knowledge and skills to future generations. Hence, transmission is one of the principal safeguarding measures underlined by the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage (art. 2.3). However, one may question how precisely this transmission can be ensured, especially in terms of practices for which formal training programs do not exist? Following a proposition of the Republic of Korea, in 1993 the Unesco Executive Board established the Living Human Treasures programme, aimed at inspiring and encouraging Member States to establish apt national safeguarding systems. Living Human Treasures are bearers of intangible cultural heritage officially identified and supported in order to ensure the transmission of their knowledge and skills. Since 1993, many Member States introduced this system at their national level. Taking the specific case of France, where the Minister of Culture and Communication created the title of Master of Art (Maître d’art) in 1994, the main positive and perverse effects of this system will be highlighted and discussed.


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