Material and Immaterial Culture

Material and Immaterial Culture represent the two types of cultural heritage, which together constitute the culture of a certain group.

Material culture is associated with material elements and, therefore, is formed by tangible and concrete elements, for example, works of art and churches.

Immaterial culture is related to spiritual or abstract elements , for example, knowledge and ways of doing.

Both have symbolic aspects, since they carry the cultural heritage of a specific people, while promoting their identity.

Material Culture

Associated with the concrete elements of a society is material culture or material cultural heritage . These elements were created over time and, therefore, represent the history of a specific people.

Several buildings, artistic and everyday objects, are part of material culture, which are classified in two ways:

  • Movable assets : can be transported and bring together collections and collections.
  • Real estate : they are fixed structures and represent historic centers, archaeological sites, etc.

In 1972, in Paris, France, the “ Convention for the Protection of World, Cultural and Natural Heritage ” took place. The event warned of the importance of the theme, as well as the safeguarding of world heritage. See the following excerpt from the convention that defines the concept of material cultural heritage :


For the purposes of this Convention, the following will be considered as cultural heritage:

Monuments. – Monumental architectural, sculpture or painting works, elements of archaeological structures, inscriptions, caves and groups of elements with exceptional universal value from the point of view of history, art or science;

The sets. – Groups of isolated or assembled buildings which, by virtue of their architecture, unity or integration into the landscape, have exceptional universal value from the point of view of history, art or science;

Places of interest. – Works of man, or combined works of man and nature, and areas, including places of archaeological interest, with exceptional universal value from the historical, aesthetic, ethnological or anthropological point of view.

Examples of Material Assets

  • Clothes
  • Museums
  • Theaters
  • Churches
  • Squares
  • Universities
  • Monuments
  • Works of art
  • Utensils

Immaterial Culture

Associated with the habits, behaviors and customs of a given social group is immaterial culture or immaterial cultural heritage .

This represents the intangible elements of a culture. Therefore, it is formed by abstract elements that are closely related to the traditions, practices, behaviors, techniques and beliefs of a specific social group. Unlike material heritage, this type of culture is passed down from generation to generation.

It is worth noting that immaterial culture is in constant transformation, since its elements are recreated collectively. This makes intangible assets very vulnerable.

For this reason, many programs and projects have been developed in Brazil and in the world in order to survey and record these practices.

In October 2003, in the city of Paris, France, the “ Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage ” took place. This event represented a great advance for the understanding and importance of this concept:

“ Intangible cultural heritage” means the practices, representations, expressions, knowledge and skills – as well as the instruments, objects, artefacts and cultural spaces associated with them – that communities, groups and, eventually, individuals recognize as doing part of its cultural heritage. This intangible cultural heritage, passed on from generation to generation, is constantly recreated by communities and groups due to their environment, their interaction with nature and their history, and gives them a sense of identity and continuity, thus contributing to promote respect for cultural diversity and human creativity . ” (Article 2: Definitions)

Examples of Immaterial Goods

  • Dances
  • Songs
  • Literature
  • Language
  • Cooking
  • Rituals
  • Parties
  • Fairs
  • Legends

Examples of Material Culture

Federal University of Paraná (Curitiba). Founded in 1902, it is the oldest in the country

  • National Historical Museum (Rio de Janeiro)
  • Paraty Architectural Complex (Rio de Janeiro)
  • Pelourinho (Salvador, Bahia)
  • Casa da Ópera Municipal Theater (Ouro Preto, Minas Gerais)
  • Federal University of Paraná (Curitiba)

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