Intangible cultural heritage in museum practice

This article examined the role of the National Museum of Kazakhstan in preserving and disseminating the intangible cultural heritage of the Kazakh people. In the framework of museum activities, intangible cultural heritage is considered in three aspects, this is an ethnographic expedition, an exhibition and work with children, where the stage of the dissemination of intangible cultural heritage among the younger generation takes place. The main points of preservation, study of the intangible cultural heritage of the Kazakh people were analyzed, the results of an ethnographic expedition in 2019 were also described. In addition, the article presents data that were collected as a result of an ethnographic expedition. The article showed the dynamics of the relevance of traditional games among young people, as the National Museum supports non-formal education for the younger generation. In the course of studying the experience of introducing intangible cultural heritage into museum area, it was analyzed the activities of the National Folk Museum of Korea. In the framework of this article, the legislative aspect of preserving the intangible cultural heritage of Kazakhstan and Korea was studied. Korea is one of the countries, which to start safeguarding and disseminating the intangible cultural heritage at the institutional level. In Korea, a system has been established for determining the holder of intangible cultural heritage, as well as student learning.


Kazakhstan is one of the countries in Central Asia with more than 100 nationalities. The cultural diversity of Kazakhstan is so heterogeneous that traditions and customs get somewhat similar.

The state policy is focused on ensuring that every nationality feels safe and remain in harmony, and also preserve its traditions and customs. In this regard, the goal of every ethnic group regardless of its quantitative composition is safeguarding the elements of their native culture such as rituals and traditions. The Republic of Kazakhstan provides a very favorable condition for safeguarding the traditional culture of different ethnic groups. Every ethnic group has its cultural centers and associations that are monitored and supported by the Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan. One of the primary goals set by the country for the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage (hereinafter referred to as ICH) is the inventory-making of the ICH which is not only for Kazakh people but all the ethnic groups residing in Kazakhstan.

To date, the country is implementing a state program called «Uly Dalanyn zhety kury», which was proclaimed by the former President of the Republic of Kazakhstan. Within the framework of this program, the former head of state mentioned the anthology of the Kazakh people. It highlights the necessity to organize systemic ethnographic expeditions for the collection of the Kazakh folklore treasury. In this regard, the Ministry of Information and Social Development has launched the project «Anthology of the Steppe Folk- lore» — the cluster of great works performed by iconic figures of Kazakh literature. This is not just a poetic or song collection but the heritage on which we must educate the younger generation. Its main task is to convey its essence to all the citizens. Based on this anthology, a multimedia platform will be created where everyone can listen and download the work of interest to them.

Nowadays, museums play a significant role in determining the socio-cultural relationship in society. Furthermore, the function of museum expands every year. With the active development of globalization, museum practice underwent a series of changes: from the museum, as a collection repository, to the museum, where the visitor is in the spotlight. The museum functions as a facilitator of the culture of the people, that is, the museum transmits all that knowledge and skills to the next generation. The role of the museum in preserving the identity of the people is high.

Corresponding author. E-mail: (N. Malibayeva)


It used a multidisciplinary approach because museums include vulnerable discipline. Also, it has focused on the interview and the study of official documents of Kazakhstan for the research. It is interesting to note that the collection of the data during an ethnographic expedition played a significant role in this research. In the course of the study, methods of observation, questioning and fixing were used. Moreover, in the course of the study of the intangible cultural heritage, a collection of initial ethnographic data of traditional household culture and their functioning in the domestic environment was carried out. In the process of implementing the study, a conversation was conducted by questioning informants.


The study of the intangible cultural heritage must begin with the experience of Korea and Japan. Japan is one of the first countries to start preserving and disseminating the intangible cultural heritage in the 1950s. In 1962, South Korea adopted an act to preserve historical and cultural heritage.

The folk traditions of Korean society were changed many times. Moreover, many cultural elements have either disappeared or been transformed during Korea's industrial era. Then, the government of Korea started discussing safeguarding and protecting tangible and intangible cultural heritage.

After that Korea became a leader in developing strategies to safeguard and promote intangible cultural heritage by establishing legal protection of ICH the Cultural Heritage Protection Act (CHPA), enacted on 10 January 1962. This law is a basic step to institutionally safeguard ICH in Korea. The basic principle of this law: The basic principle for the preservation, management, and utilization of cultural heritage is to preserve them in their original state [1].

By adopting this law, Korea became a manager in this matter, which allowed it to create a category 2 center for UNESCO. We can realize that Korea started this process before adopting the 2003 Convention UNESCO. The main purposes on the Convention: (a) to safeguard the intangible cultural heritage;

to ensure respect for the intangible cultural heritage of the communities, groups and individuals concerned; (c) to raise awareness at the local, national and international levels of the importance of the intangible cultural heritage, and of ensuring mutual appreciation thereof; (d) to provide for international cooperation and assistance [2].) Convention based on idea of safeguarding and disseminating.

«The 2003 Convention is both a practical and political tool to improve the esteem of popular practices, and to highlight their importance as cultural heritage. It hopes to do so by mobilizing large parts of the population, who will then be encouraged to run their activities and projects according to the definitions contained in the 2003 Convention» [3].

In 1992, a law was adopted to preserve the cultural heritage of the Kazakh people. From 2003 to 2011, a state program called «Cultural Heritage» was implemented. The purpose of this state program was to preserve and disseminate the culture of the Kazakh people. As part of this project, 1000 kyu and 1000 songs of the Kazakh people were published. In addition, in the process of implementing this project, a 1000 volume series of folklore material entitled «Babalar sozi» was published. This work was the beginning of preserving and disseminating the intangible cultural heritage of the Kazakh people.

In 2006, the government of Kazakhstan adopted the law «On Culture». Based on this legislation, many issues regarding cultural heritage were regulated. The law «On Culture» of the Republic of Kazakhstan in article 1, paragraph 2–2 states that «the intangible cultural heritage of the Republic of Kazakhstan are the customs, forms of presentation and expression, knowledge and skills, as well as related tools, items passed down from generation to generation and which are intangible cultural property». In Kazakhstan, the term used is intangible cultural heritage. Article 1 of paragraph 3–4 of the Law «On Culture» states that «safe- guarding the intangible cultural heritage is to take measures to ensure the viability of the intangible cultural heritage, including its identification, documentation, research, preservation, protection, popularization, increasing the role, and also reviving» [4]. The definition of intangible cultural heritage in this document is defined very clearly and concisely.

In 2015, a document was adopted that determines the status of the medium and the item, and the system for maintaining the inventory documentation of the item.

As mentioned above, the state program «Uly Dalanun zhety kury», which was proclaimed by the former president of the country, is now being implemented. This program indicates the main points regarding the steppe folklore of the Kazakh people. The steppe folklore of the Kazakhs is rooted in centuries, which is one of the fundamental factors of the cultural code and tradition.

To date, 10 elements of the intangible cultural heritage of the Kazakhs have been included in the representative list of UNESCO: Traditional knowledge and skills in making Kyrgyz and Kazakh yurts, Kazakh traditional art of Dombra Kuy, Aitysh/Aitys, art of improvisation, Falconry, a living human heritage, Flatbread making and sharing culture: Lavash, Katyrma, Jupka, Yufka, Nawrouz, Novruz, Nowrouz, Nowrouz, Nawrouz, Nauryz, Nooruz, Nowruz, Navruz, Nevruz, Nowruz, Navruz, Kuresi in Kazakhstan, Kazakh traditional Assyk games, Traditional spring festive rites of the Kazakh horse breeders, Heritage of Dede Qorqud/Korkyt Ata/Dede Korkut, epic culture, folk tales and music. Many of them are multinational because the elements of tradition are similar. The applications for 2 elements were refused.

An inventory of the intangible cultural heritage of the Kazakhs was carried out in the framework of 5 domains, which are stipulated in the second part of Article 2 of the UNESCO 2003 Convention:

(a) Oral traditions and expressions, including language as a vehicle of the intangible cultural heritage;

(b) Performing arts;

  1. Social practices, rituals, and festive events;
  2. Knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe;
  3. Traditional craftsmanship

Nowadays, museums act as an organization that covers the historical, cultural, and social aspects of people's lives.

In 1946, ICOM was created. The ICOM definition played a central role for museums and museum professionals and became a reference in the international museum community.

In 2004, the 21st General Assembly of the International Council of Museums (ICOM) was organized a conference in Seoul, as a result of which Resolution No. 1 was adopted. This resolution supported the UNESCO 2003 Convention and called on all countries to ratify the Convention for the Safeguarding and Disseminating of the Intangible Cultural Heritage. One of the main outcomes that of this conference is International Journal of Intangible Heritage, which has published by National Folk Museum of Korea.

In 2017, Belgium, The Netherland, Switzerland, France and Italy arranged an international project named «Intangible cultural heritage and Museum project» (IMP). This international project creates international networking for sharing information, tools for exchange the best practice of safeguarding and sustainable development.

Nowadays, many museums are wondering how museums can play a significant role in the dissemination of intangible cultural heritage. How can a museum contribute to the safeguarding of the intangible cultural heritage?

The National Museum of the Republic of Kazakhstan was established by the decree of the first President in 2013. And, since 2015, it has been working to create an intangible cultural heritage fund, which is formed based on collected materials during an ethnographic expedition.

According to R. Kurin, «….the new Convention, they must have the major role in defining their intangible cultural heritage and how it is documented, preserved, recognized, presented, transmitted, and legally protected»[5; 7]. Holders play a significant role in the process of safeguarding intangible cultural heritage and we must always consider their opinion. (Holders are groups or individuals, who knows traditional knowledge, skills, and technologies of elements).

The museum does not separate the material aspect from the non-material side since visitors to the museum at the sight of an artifact always ask about knowledge and traditions regarding the exhibit. These two aspects of culture are always interconnected. A museum is a place where material culture and intangible culture meet. And, these two aspects are somewhere complementary.

It was found out that presently, the museum pays more attention to safeguarding intangible cultural heritage and tries to combine a variety of approaches to work with ICH. In this work, the author believes that exhibitions, collecting data, and non-formal education can certainly support safeguarding in important ways; however, that full safeguarding work would need to include the holders as well.

The museum's work with the intangible cultural heritage is manifested in the collection of data, in the creation of an exposition, as well as in work with local communities. The National Museum of Kazakhstan divides some stages of work with intangible cultural heritage as follows:

  1. Collecting data and working with the communities. However, following the 2003 Convention, these actions concerning the intangible cultural heritage must be carried out with the active participation of communities and with their consent;
  2. Creation of an exposition, replenishment of content, exhibition;
  3. The non-formal educational aspect.

The first stage focuses on collecting data and working with communities. Mostly, researchers use the method of interviews, analysis, and video/photo creation. After the collection of materials, they are processed and transferred to the archive. This is an important task since the recording of the knowledge and skills of the carrier are crucial. When working with the communities, the opinions of community representatives must be taken into account as well.

Researchers of the National Museum of the Republic of Kazakhstan arranged 10 ethnographic expeditions from 2015 to 2019, among which one expedition is international. During the ethnographic expedition, study and preservation ways of elements of the intangible cultural North Kazakhstan, Pavlodar and Kustanay region had conducted. It can be seen that the main emphasis is on performing arts and knowledge and the practice concerning nature and the universe. This is mainly because the local population pays great attention to these two domains.

During the ethnographic expedition, we found that some elements of the intangible cultural heritage of the Kazakh people have been lost. Such heritage requires a targeted inventory of the elements of the intangible cultural heritage of the Kazakh people.

Last year the National museum of the Republic Kazakhstan arranged field ethnographic studies were carried out along the following route: to the North Kazakhstan region — the Esil district, Ualikhanov district, Karaganda region — Shetsky district, Karkaraly district. Field materials were collected using informal interviewing and photographing methods. Whole interview was record in CD.

The research was carried out in the following areas: study of the current state and the preservation of arts and crafts and traditional clothing; fixation of carriers of intangible cultural heritage of Kazakhs; study of ethnic specificity and innovations in family rituals, and holidays; collection of recipes and technologies for preparing national dishes, seasonality, diet, and food-related rituals (photo and video recording); fixing the folklore heritage of the studied region; ethno science.

The following new data has been received on the aforementioned direction of the intangible cultural heritage of the Kazakh people of Saryarka: Summing up the field work of 2019 in the territory of the Karaganda region, it must be said that we collected, recorded in audio and video format a total of 154 works, 32 of which are kyus, 33 bata, 26 folk songs, 10 original songs, 3 old version of jarapazan, 10 zhoktau, 3 synsu, 16 karaolen, 2 kissa, 5 badіk olen, 1 throat singing, etc.

Arts and crafts: The traditional types of arts and crafts among Kazakhs are mainly felting, embroidery, making women's jewelry from silver, artistic processing of metal, leather, etc. One of the interesting, but at the same time consuming work is felting. Basically, older women are engaged in this craft.

Kazakh cuisine: During the expedition along the Saryarka, collection of recipes had carried out; cooking and preparation technologies and diet had studied. As a result of field studies, 15 types of dishes of national cuisine were discovered, as well as manufacturing techniques and blanks for future use, some ethnographic materials previously known in ethnographic science were clarified, regional features of the preparation and recipe composition of some dishes were analyzed.

To this day, the Kazakhs of Western Siberia, living in a different ethnic environment, have not lost the elements of Kazakh spiritual culture, without replacing them with elements of modern Russian culture. During the field work, a peculiar rich ethnographic material on the spiritual and material culture of the Kazakhs was revealed and recorded. Well-preserved traditional way of life and lifestyle, craft, ceremonies and customs, festivals of the Kazakhs. Very relevant is the control of marriages (or rather, the observance of the principle of non-mixing of blood) within an ethnic group. Therefore, an important component in the spiritual culture of the Kazakhs is the «Jeti Ata» tradition — knowledge of their pedigree to the seventh generation. One of the manifestations of the ethnic identity of the Kazakhs is the attribution of themselves to a particular zhuz and tribe. In addition, each Kazakh should know his «shezhire», that is, a family tree that performs one of the functions of preserving historical memory. Another important component of ethnicity is religion. The Kazakhs of the border territories of the Russian Federation are mainly Sunni Muslims. In addition to the above forms for ethnic identification, there are other types of material and spiritual culture of the Kazakhs.

During the ethnographic expedition, it shows that every day the holders of the element of intangible cultural heritage are becoming less and less. There is a need for a comprehensive ethnographic expedition to all regions of Kazakhstan in order to collect data and fix holders.

The second aspect is the holding of exhibitions regarding intangible cultural heritage. During the exhibitions, technologies used will help the visitor to get acquainted with one or another element since the main task of the exhibitions is to disseminate the intangible cultural heritage. This direction is one of the key points in the process of disseminating intangible cultural heritage. Interpretation of intangible cultural heritage mainly goes through audio/video content, since such a transmission method seems to be the most suitable one.

From 2014 to 2019, 16 exhibitions were organized on the intangible cultural heritage of the National Museum of the Republic of Kazakhstan. It is worth noting that among them, there are also exhibitions that are focused on the dissemination of cultures of other nationalities. For example, «Kazkak madenietinin ulttyk zergerlic ashekeilery» (2014), «The world of Indian textile» (2018), «Traditional Korean mask» (2018). We can understand that The National Museum of the Republic of Kazakhstan is making an effort to support cultural diversity.

During exhibitions or workshops, lectures on the element are usually held. Besides those, modern technologies are used that will show and explain the manufacturing technology of those elements. It is not so easy to show intangible cultural heritage through exhibitions since the transfer of information requires great attention to an additional device — an audio/video device.

The third aspect is the involvement of young people in the dissemination of intangible cultural heritage. Introducing intangible cultural heritage into the educational aspect through museum content is a significant technique.

Each museum has a department of education whose main task is aimed at disseminating the intangible cultural heritage knowledge among the younger generation and the audience. These are mainly conducted with children of 8–12 years old. To date, a project called «Entertaining Ethnography» is being implemented. This project began in the fall of 2016 together with the Asyk Atu Federation under the name «Kel asyk oynayk». This project covered not only the game asykatu, but also the program of this course included such traditional games as «togyzkumalac», «Langi» etc. This program is held twice a month. As seen in the statistics of each year: the Expo in 2017, 157 (35 %) students attended the lessons; 2018 — 115 (26 %) students and as for the current year to date (September) 178 (40 %) students [6; 53] were present in the session.

As the dynamics show, the young generation's interest is not stable in traditional games. We can see that in 2018, fewer participants attended this program than in the previous year.

One of the educational programs is «Dombyra Oinay». This course is held once a week. It is worth noting that the interest of children in this educational program is stable as the new generation pays more attention to their traditional culture. This trend is visible among the younger generation.

The National Museum of Kazakhstan was founded 5 years ago and during this period many educational programs for students of the city's schools have been done. Unfortunately, the audience of our educational programs can reach schools in the capital. For example, the informal educational programs of the National Folk Museum of Korea cover students from all over the republic. In 2018, the National Folk Museum of Korea provided educational programs: a total of 30 times where 15,872 people participated [7; 25].

Referring to Article 2.3 of the 2003 Convention, education plays a significant role in the promoting and safeguarding ICH. We should realize that non-formal education is the best way to transmit our culture from generation to generation.

The National museum of Kazakhstan published journal «Great Steppe Heritage» since 2017. The main objective of the annual publication is to discuss topical issues in the archaeological, spiritual heritage, the museum, the restoration and nature protection zones of the Republic of Kazakhstan and other countries, as well as the «Tuhan zher» program, the results of scientific research and the publication of news on the toponymy of this program.

As Marilena Alivizatou noted in his article «Museums and Intangible Heritage: The Dynamics of an «Unconventional Relationship» that «According to the movement of the New Museology, museums have a social, educational and cultural responsibility towards their public and for this reason, special attention should be given to the satisfaction of the educational and cultural needs of audiences»[8]. Therefore, the museum focuses on the needs of the audience.

Unambiguously, the museum's activities in the issue of preservation and dissemination of the intangible cultural heritage are ambiguous and manifests in a different format.

From the foregoing, one can say that to interpret the intangible cultural heritage in the museum sphere is one of the methods to strengthen the interdisciplinary approach. By tradition, a museum is always regarded as a documentation center, a repository of values. These activities can be easily integrated into the context of the tasks of preserving and transferring intangible cultural heritage. Museums play an important role within local communities operating as cultural hubs and providing additional physical capital such as cafes and meeting place. In the future, museums may become a center for interpretation and presentation of intangible cultural heritage, a center where representatives of the local community can teach as the museum takes on the functions of documenting and compiling an inventory.


From the foregoing, it can be said that the context of the museum acquires a new look every year as it is necessary to withstand the challenges of the times and be in step with it. Consequently, there is no need to overshadow the importance of the museum in the problem of preserving and disseminating the intangible cultural heritage as the museum is precisely space where we can trace cultural diversity.

Passed from one generation to another, these ancient traditions determine the present and future spiritual component of the Kazakh people. Therefore, the main guardian and ardent supporter of the preservation of traditions is the people themselves. Enthusiasts, performers and carriers of this culture are true patriots, pass on their knowledge to the young generation, which is growing and proud of its involvement in the history of the Kazakh people. Through participation in these forms of folk culture, the young generation forms a sense of citizenship, love for their small homeland and involvement in the universal culture. The intangible cultural heritage today is becoming a priority in preserving the spirituality of the people and the vehicle that builds the bridge between the past, present and future.

Intangible cultural heritage is a national code of us. It has reached us in integrity and preservation and we should pass it to next generation. As we know our land locates on the Eurasia, where had met the several of ethnic group, which influenced on cultural diversity. The cultural heritage was developed in Great Steppe during entire periods. Nowadays, we should preserve, explore, spread and pass our traditions on the future generations.

Investigating intangible cultural heritage, you need to remember the following: there is cultural diversity in the world, so you need to show respect for each culture; intangible cultural heritage undergoes change over time. In addition, holders are an important component of the existence of the intangible cultural heritage; the «holder-student» system is the main case in the process of preserving the intangible cultural heritage.


First, museums can play a significant role like institutes which would do an inventory system of elements of the intangible cultural heritage. An inventory of the elements of the intangible cultural heritage should be carried out every year in accordance with the UNESCO 2003 Convention. An inventory provides a complete analysis of the current state of the elements, where it is possible to trace which elements need urgent protection. It is clear that museum staffs who is engaged in the study of tradition and artifacts can positively contribute to the creation of an information database on elements and media. Studying the experience of Korea, we can trace the system of regulation of an element of intangible cultural heritage. It should be noted that Korea connected the city of Jeonju with the ICH in a practice, and all the leading organizations regarding this area are located in this city. On the one hand, the development of a peripheral city in the form of a tourist hub positively affects the economy of the province. On the other hand, all the leading organizations in this industry are located in one place, and many bureaucratic nuances are relegated to the background.

Second, the museum can work as a facilitator between holders and audiences. Unfortunately, Kazakhstan does not have a system for determining the status of holders. Many holders do not understand the full responsibility and significance of their knowledge regarding tradition. In world practice, this system is established only in certain countries. In Korea, there is a practice of teaching a student skill that is, transferring his knowledge to the next generation. In this regard, it would like to say that museum staff could carry out outreach to the public. During the ethnographic expedition, it turned out that a simple resident does not know what an intangible cultural heritage is. This is a big problem because there is should be institute which can work with communities.

Besides, the museum needs an international networking program for sharing their experience as a part of its sustainability. Intangible cultural heritage is a new area that appeared in the early 2000s. Consequently, many countries do not have practice in this area, except for a few countries. Basically, ICHCAP is involved in the training of experts. The activities of this organization are controlled by UNESCO. The objectives of ICHCAP shall be: promote the UNESCO 2003 Convention for the safeguarding ICH and enhance regional capacity for ICH safeguarding by disseminating information. As Korea's practice shows, using international projects to disseminate best practices helps achieve good results. Over the years, ICHСAP has trained several experts and implemented various regional projects. Basically, ICHCAP focuses on Asia-Pacific region. Definitely, the National museum could arrange a platform for Central Asia and maintain a central office for implementation Convention and a lot projects. Unambiguously, museums could take on part of these functions related to the dissemination and promotion of the intangible cultural heritage.

In addition, as it mentioned above, IMP explored the different of methods of sharing information, contributed several international meeting and conference. The main topic of this conference was how can museum assist in the disseminating and safeguarding ICH and ICH could be part of future museum.

And, last one; Museums could provide scientific and methodological accompaniment.

Many organizations directly disseminate intangible cultural heritage to the local population in Kazakhstan. However, these organizations work in a specific format and are engaged only in promoting one element. In this regard, these organizations need scientific and methodological support. After that, we should create a platform that could provide scientific advice and create a database of holders and elements. The museum could take on this role and create a database platform where everyone can see this information about the intangible cultural heritage of the Kazakhs. Looking at the experience of countries such as Korea, Japan and Vietnam, we can confidently say that only with the help of scientific and methodological support we achieve positive results in the implementation of the 2003 UNESCO Convention.

It should be note that there is a hierarchy system of elements of intangible cultural heritage, for example, regional, republican, national level in world practice. In our country, unfortunately, this system is not adjusted. Working with local departments of culture, the National Museum could organize and put this system up to standard. The government of Korea established the National Intangible Heritage Center. The objectives of this center include supporting artists, working with holders, conducting educational programs for children throughout Korea, providing scientific and methodological assistance to organizations that are directly involved in the study and preservation of the intangible cultural heritage.

This article was published as part of project financing № BR05236868 »Study, preservation and promotion of the cultural heritage of Saryarka».



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Year: 2020
City: Karaganda
Category: History