Research Output

Scoping and mapping intangible cultural heritage in Scotland: final report.

  The intangible cultural heritage (ICH) of Scotland requires to be accorded a
status which is equal to that of the material culture of Scotland. If this is not
currently the case, this in part reflects difficulties inherent in identifying the
existence of, far less capturing the essence of, something which is not a
material artefact. The creation of an accurate inventory of ICH in Scotland will
constitute an important step towards safeguarding its future.
The nature of ICH in Scotland, while unique thematically and specific
geographically, nevertheless exhibits a range broadly consistent with the
generic UNESCO typology, and may be categorised under the headings of
oral traditions and expressions; performing arts; social practices, rituals and
festive events; and traditional craftsmanship. Within this categorisation, an
inclusive approach to what constitutes ICH in Scotland (as distinct from
Scottish ICH) is advocated which embraces the customs and practices of wellestablished
immigrant communities. It is suggested that the touchstone for
inclusion is the point where selfconscious
reference to the site of origin has
been replaced by selfconfident
expression consistent with the ICH becoming
embedded in its wider destination context.
The obverse of this situation also occurs and must be resolved in the context
of recording and safeguarding ICH in Scotland. This relates to the point at
which ICH in and for the community is transformed into something outward
facing and intended primarily for the ‘tourist gaze’. 1 A case in point is
festivals which may demonstrate aspects of both. With decisions made on
criteria for eligibility for inclusion in the inventory, the next choice relates to
finding the most efficient and effective means of identifying ICH on the
ground. A distinction requires to be made between routes to and sources of
ICH and the preferred method is to employ a snowballing technique with
Local Authority staff coordinating and directing the efforts of teams of
knowledgeable practitioners.
Finally, a fitforpurpose
inventory must combine flexibility from the user’s
perspective with ease of data entry from the compiler’s perspective. It must
also be database based so that a single change of detail effects change across
the whole record. After due consideration, the preferred option is identified
as a restrictedaccess
Wiki with content being uploaded by authorised
individuals only. This offers flexibility in terms of data categorisation, using a
traffic light system for indicating fragility, combined with user friendliness
both for those creating the inventory and for those wishing to access
Both in respect of the snowballing method for data gathering and for the
technical aspects of data entry, basic group training sessions would require to be offered to participating professional coordinators – possibly Local
This training would be specifically designed to be capable of
being cascaded to communitybased
volunteer staff, drawn from ICH
practitioners on the ground, who could be responsible for gathering the data
and sorting it in readiness for data entry. The maintenance of any inventory
will be as critical to the matter of adhering to best practice in the recording of
ICH as its initial creation. It is recommended that ad hoc updating is paralleled
with a more methodical stocktaking of ICH in Scotland every few years.
The establishment of an inventory of ICH in line with UNESCO best practice
is not, however, a sufficient condition to ensure adequate safeguarding,
although it does ensure that those examples of ICH most in need of support
can be identified. However, a specific effort must also be undertaken actively
to safeguard ICH for the future, and it is recommended that such endeavours
are best carried out either as communitylevel
projects or embedded as part
and parcel of the delivery of the curriculum in schools. If young people are
progressively involved with the customs and practices of their own cultures,
through both the curriculum and communitybased
projects, this is
undoubtedly the most effective way of promoting a safeguarded ICH in Scotland for the future.

  • Type:


  • Date:

    30 June 2008

  • Publication Status:


  • Publisher


  • Library of Congress:

    GN Anthropology

  • Dewey Decimal Classification:

    306 Culture & institutions


McCleery, A., McCleery, A., Gunn, L. & Hill, D. (2008). Scoping and mapping intangible cultural heritage in Scotland: final report



Intangible cultural heritage; scoping; mapping; identity; nationhood; cultural inheritance;

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