What are living traditions?
Living traditions are our intangible cultural heritage. In other words, Intangible cultural heritage refers to all traditions and practices that are passed down from one generation to the next and which provide us with a sense of identity and continuity. These can range from stories and legends, to music and dance, customs and festivals, right up to traditional know-how and skills. Intangible cultural heritage is not only diverse, but also comes in all manner of forms, and, unlike our tangible cultural heritage, it is constantly evolving and changing.
What is the Inventory of Living Traditions in Switzerland?
The "Inventory of Living Traditions in Switzerland" comprises 167 representative elements of intangible cultural heritage drawn from across the country. The list details traditions from many different fields, including music, dance, theatre, customs, traditional craftsmanship, industry, as well as knowledge concerning nature. All entries are of particular significance for a place, a region or Switzerland as a whole. When Switzerland ratified the UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage, it pledged to compile an inventory of its living traditions.
Why draw up a list?
If something is to be preserved for posterity, it must first be identified and documented. Inventorying intangible cultural heritage is a key feature of the UNESCO Convention. The process makes it possible to identify elements of our intangible cultural heritage and to decide on measures to transmit and promote these traditions. Inventorying is also one of the preconditions for inclusion on UNESCO lists ("Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity" and the "List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding").
How does the Inventory help promote living traditions?
Intangible cultural heritage can only survive if these traditional practices and expressions continue to be observed and are meaningful to the bearer or practitioner. For this reason, only indirect safeguard measures can be taken. The goal of such measures must always be to generate awareness of the value of living traditions. The Inventory of Living Traditions in Switzerland helps to raise public awareness of the importance of living traditions. It also should lead to better recognition for the tradition bearers.
What is the link between the Inventory of Living Traditions and the UNESCO lists?
All signatory states to the UNESCO Convention are obliged to compile and maintain an inventory of intangible cultural heritage found on their territory. The Inventory of Living Traditions, Switzerland fulfils this obligation at national level. However, several cantons have also drawn up their own inventory. UNESCO manages international inventories, including the "Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity" and the "List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding". A tradition that appears on the Swiss Inventory does not receive entry to the UNESCO Lists automatically, although only elements that appear on the national list can be put forward for inclusion in the international ones.
Who compiled the Inventory of Living Traditions?
The current inventory features elements that were put forward by cantons. At the end of May 2011, the Federal Office of Culture presented 387 living traditions that the cantonal offices of culture had nominated for inclusion on the National Inventory.