Intangible Heritage


Passing know-how and skills from one generation to the next

The Intangible Heritage of FRESS

UNESCO preamble

On 17 October 2003, the Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage was approved during the 32nd General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). This Convention entered into force on 20 April 2006, three months after the 30th instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval or adherence was received by the Director-General of UNESCO.

The 2003 Convention has several objectives:

The safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage;

Respect for the intangible cultural heritage of communities, groups and individuals;

Awareness, at local, national and international level, of the importance of intangible cultural heritage and its mutual appreciation;

International cooperation and assistance in the context of an increasingly globalized world that threatens to homogenize cultures and simultaneously increase social inequality.

Recognized as an instrument for the promotion of intangible cultural heritage, a key generator of cultural diversity and guarantor of sustainable development, the 2003 Convention aims to fill a gap in the legal system for the international protection of cultural heritage, the instruments of which did not previously take into account intangible cultural heritage and related only to tangible cultural heritage, both moveable and immoveable, meaning that expressions of intangible culture could not be safeguarded through the international legal instruments then in existence.

The Convention considers intangible cultural heritage to be,

‘(…) the practices, representations, expressions, knowledge and skills – as well as the instruments, objects, artefacts and cultural spaces associated therewith – that communities, groups and, in some cases, individuals recognize as part of their cultural heritage. This intangible cultural heritage, transmitted from generation to generation, is constantly recreated by communities and groups in response to their environment, their interaction with nature and their history, and provides them with a sense of identity and continuity, thus promoting respect for cultural diversity and human creativity’ (Article 2).

This, then, is the intangible cultural heritage that the 2003 Convention aims to safeguard, with each State producing inventories of this heritage, among other measures.

The Ricardo do Espírito Santo Silva Foundation was created in 1953 by the State because of Ricardo do Espírito Santo Silva’s donation of the Azurara Palace and a museological collection of works of decorative art. Its mission is to defend, stimulate, promote and pass on from generation-to-generation knowledge of the decorative arts and related crafts, through workshops as well as academic, museological, conservation and restoration activities.

The museological and artistic project is complemented by the workshop activity. Its mission is to safeguard and keep alive traditional crafts and skills, strengthening knowledge of the materials and techniques that allow specific crafts to be carried out. This knowledge, now regarded as ancestral intangible heritage, is imparted on a daily basis in the FRESS workshops and has enhanced the value of the teaching carried out there, making FRESS a national point of reference.

In accordance with UNESCO guidelines, this type of knowledge is perpetuated through the ongoing transmission of techniques by teachers and trainers to trainees, who thus preserve and maintain knowledge of traditional skills.

The FRESS workshops are thus a living museum, where teachers and trainers ensure the continuity of traditional techniques and knowledge of the raw materials, but also a space of intergenerational learning which allows for dialogue with artists, with a view to a new and necessary approach to modernity.

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