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Preserving Cultural Heritage


Artifact from Iraq's National Museum

The United States, itself a society composed of people representing the cultural and ethnic diversity of the world, joins with other countries to preserve their heritage.

The cultural heritage of a nation represents its collective identity – national, regional and local. It speaks to the historical experiences and contributions of mankind and the values that have come to define a nation's unique place in the world. There is no more sure way to instill pride, inspire civic responsibility, and strengthen social cohesion than to celebrate and preserve one's cultural heritage.

That is why the United States, itself a society composed of people representing the cultural and ethnic diversity of the world, joins with other countries to preserve their heritage. In 2001, the United States Congress created the U.S. Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation, noting that "cultural preservation offers an opportunity to show a different American face to other countries. By taking a leading role in efforts to preserve cultural heritage, we show our respect for other cultures."

The Congress then directed the U.S. Department of State to support and implement it, which it does through its Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

The goal is to join with eligible countries around the globe to preserve their cultural heritage, both tangible and intangible, such as historic sites and manuscripts, museum collections, and traditional forms of music, dance, and language. To date, through the Ambassadors Fund For Cultural Preservation, the U.S. has provided direct grant support of some twenty million dollars, for more than five hundred and fifty cultural preservation projects in more than a hundred countries.

And so, in Nepal, the Patan Royal Palace has received support for much needed restoration work so that the complex can be made safe and be opened to the public. In Herat, Afghanistan, a grant is helping preserve the Qala Ikhtyaruddin, a citadel that served as a palace to the Timurid rulers of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Turkmenistan is seeing the restoration of a twelfth century mausoleum, Tajikistan a permanent record of its folk music, and many of Kyrgyzstan's rarest books are being preserved.

The cultural heritage of a civilization forms the bedrock upon which it relies to maintain stability, identity, and, increasingly, sustainable economic livelihood. Once gone, the tangible and intangible elements of cultural heritage cannot be replaced. And, in many parts of the world this loss can be a de-stabilizing influence. But by acting now, we can preserve it for people today and in the future.

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