Contact Us
Click here to go to the Strategy Hub

Introduction to Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH)

What is Intangible Cultural Heritage?

Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) is a tradition, practice, or living expression of a group or community. This can include oral traditions, performing arts, social practices, rituals, festive events, and traditional crafts. ICH is a very important part of our cultural heritage, a living form of heritage which continues to evolve as communities adapt their practices and traditions in response to their environment. ICH provides us with a sense of identity and belonging while promoting respect and understanding for cultures different to our own. 

In Scotland, we use an inclusive approach to ICH which respects the diversity of Scotland’s communities. We refer to ‘ICH in Scotland’ rather than ‘Scottish ICH’.

What does this mean for museums?

People often learn about ICH and see demonstrations of ICH practices in museums.  Museums also care for collections which relate to ICH practices – for example, tools used in a traditional practice and objects that are created for a ritual event. 

ICH in Scotland website

In 2007, Museums Galleries Scotland (MGS) commissioned Edinburgh Napier University to research ICH in Scotland. Their report, ‘Intangible Cultural Heritage in Scotland: the way forward, identified practical steps to  safeguard and promote ICH in Scotland. This included the development of a wiki site of ICH practice in Scotland. The site was redeveloped in 2015 and provides a platform for people to showcase cultural practices in their community. The site is universally accessible and anyone with examples of ICH practice in Scotland is invited to add content.  If you’d like to contribute, please visit the ICH Scotland website. 

Our role

MGS became involved with ICH in 2007 following requests for development support from Scotland’s museums and galleries. We continue to support museums in this area and help identify opportunities for development and collaboration. 

In 2012 MGS became the first UK organisation to become accredited as an expert Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) advisor to UNESCO on the 2003 UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage. We’re an active member of the NGO Forum, which provides a place for NGOs to share learning and support each other as expert advisors. 

In 2023, the UK Government announced its intention to ratify the 2003 UNESCO Convention on the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage. Our Museum Development Manager wrote for the Museums Association on why Intangible Cultural Heritage could be a gamechanger for museums.

'For Everyone' International Symposium 

In November 2015, MGS organised the International Symposium on the role of ICH in identities and sustainable community development. This event was organised in partnership with Traditional Arts and Cultural Scotland (TRACS) and supported by Creative Scotland. The programme included Scottish and international experts in the field, with attendees including museum sector workers, policy makers, ICH practitioners, and academics. 

ICH workshops

These two training workshops provide a useful introduction to ICH and how museums and galleries sector can engage with it.

The workshops were originally delivered by MGS for organisations supported through the Year of Stories 2022 Community Stories Fund. 

Workshop 1: Introduction to Intangible Cultural Heritage

In this introductory online workshop, which took place in April 2022, Peter Hewitt – Intangible Cultural Heritage Officer at MGS – explores definitions and examples of ICH, as well as outlining its background and importance to society.

Workshop 2: ICH – Overview and Next Steps

The first part of this online ICH workshop, delivered in June 2022, covers: 

Workshop 2: Overview of the ICH Scotland website

The second part of this June 2022 workshop provides an overview of the ICH Scotland website and how it can be used to record examples of Intangible Cultural Heritage.