May 22, 2022

University of Illinois (UIUC): iSchool Faculty Release White Paper on Preserving Intangible Cultural Heritage

From The School of Information Science (The iSchool at Illinois):

2017-09-15_20-11-25The field of library and information science (LIS) has a long history of research on the preservation of materials in libraries and archives. However, that research has focused almost exclusively on tangible aspects of cultural heritage.

Associate Professor Jerome McDonough, Associate Professor Lori Kendall, and Senior Lecturer Maria Bonn have released a white paper, “Libraries and Archives and the Preservation of Intangible Cultural Heritage: Defining a Research Agenda,” as part of their work on the Preserving Intangible Cultural Heritage project. Funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the project has collaborated with scholars and practitioners involved in a variety of forms of intangible heritage preservation within the United States—including performing arts, culinary arts, and paper conservation—to further this important research.


e paper identifies several major potential areas for LIS research on intangible heritage, including:

  • understanding the role of material culture in the practice of intangible culture;
  • identifying the ways in which material culture held by libraries and archives may contribute to the transmission of intangible cultural heritage within communities;
  • developing frameworks for risk assessment of intangible cultural heritage;
  • creating inventories and bibliographies of library and archival material that may contribute to sustaining forms of intangible heritage;
  • working with communities possessing intangible heritage to develop systems of description and classification that clarify the relationships between intangible culture and library and archival materials; and
  • studying the impact of governmental and organizational policy on sustaining intangible heritage, including issues of intellectual property, resource allocation by libraries and archives, and the structuring of memory institutions and their areas of concern.

Direct to Full Text White Paper: Libraries and Archives and the Preservation of Intangible Cultural Heritage: Defining a Research Agenda
64 pages; PDF. 


With the adoption by UNESCO of The Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2003, the preservation of intangible heritage has gained greater international recognition and attention. While the museum community has been deeply involved in cultural heritage preservation efforts, libraries and archives have for the most part not seen this as part of their primary mission. With intangible heritage increasingly threatened, and with the holdings of libraries and archives potentially of great utility in preservation efforts, this is an unfortunate situation. Based on discussions with a number of experts in fields directly relating to intangible heritage, this white paper, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, proposes a research agenda for library and information science aimed at allowing libraries and archives to make more substantial contributions in preserving intangible cultural heritage.

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.