Heritage is a polysemic notion that includes tangible heritage (historical buildings, works of art, etc.) and intangible heritage as well. Intangible heritage includes the symbolic dimension of tangible heritage: monuments and works of art constitute representations of a people’s cultural identity. Craftsmanship preservation is a vehicle for the transmission of cultural values that are threatened by modernity: the immaterial substance of a building can create a sense of local cohesion, and traditional skills and savoir faire that are in force in the conservation process represent a part of the cultural capital of a country. It also includes traditions, languages, social habits, skills, etc. The protection of intangible heritage depends on public intervention through property rights, subsidies and learning. For example, the Japanese people designate the people who defend and apply a tradition of special importance (actors, artists, craftsmen) as ‘national living treasure’. Their mission consists in training disciples in order to ensure continuity in their craft/ artistic field. In this chapter we mainly consider the question of tangible heritage, and especially of built heritage, museums and archaeological sites. The following section emphasizes the grounds for public intervention that mainly rely on public economics. Then the chapter deals with the public tools dedicated to the conservation of heritage. In the last part, we stress the main limits and drawbacks of public intervention.
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