Since 2003, the Secretariat of the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage has constantly invested in knowledge management to provide States Parties with detailed information and online services for its implementation. In doing so, a lot of data has been accumulated, in particular regarding elements inscribed on the lists of the 2003 Convention. However, so far data on elements has been presented year by year, country by country, list by list, but not according to the actual cultural content it refers to.

Launch of ‘Dive into Intangible Cultural Heritage’ interfaces (26/11/2018)
© UNESCO (video) / A. van der Zeijden (photo)

In 2016, the Intangible Cultural Heritage Section started a reflection on how to:

  • bring together elements dealing with similar topics,
  • share different ways that elements can be connected to one another through concepts/ideas and,
  • develop a map based on content/meaning (semantics) rather than geography.

The UNESCO Thesaurus was identified as a useful framework to index these elements since its vocabulary is shared throughout UNESCO. It creates the possibility to share interconnections between ICH-related data and other UNESCO programmes at a later stage.

In 2017, all inscribed elements were indexed against 10 to 15 concepts chosen either from the UNESCO Thesaurus or, when needed, from concepts created in a complementary vocabulary containing more specific terms. To better reflect the relative importance of the concepts selected for a given element, one to four concepts were defined as primary, with the rest being set as secondary. Typically, similar elements will share the same primary concepts, while semantic nuances are brought in by the secondary concepts.

Altogether, the elements refer to almost 1,000 concepts, and 15,000 relationships were created between elements, concepts, countries and regions. Based on this data, a prototype was elaborated in early 2018. Its presentation convinced the Kingdom of the Netherlands to support its further development.

The data were refined with the help of experts and additional versions of the visualizations were prepared (biomes, threats and domains) for the launch of Dive into intangible cultural heritage during the first day of the thirteenth session of the Committee.