National heritage, cultural heritage, national remembrance, memorials and national cemetery: all of these are familiar but often obscurely used expressions. They are in fact concepts that bridge past and present, and give form to experiencing modern national identity.

National heritage comprises all the works and products, tangible and intangible, which have been inherited by a group or a society from the past, and are maintained in the present for the benefit of future generations. It includes all tangible (buildings, monuments, books, works of art) and all intangible elements of cultural heritage (folklore, traditions, language, knowledge, culturally valuable regions, biodiversity).

Pieces of the past – such as national memorials – that have come down to us and that we intend to preserve constitute an important part of the culture of remembrance. National memorials are spaces or buildings of national history that assume a crucial role in preserving national consciousness. National memorials serve as venues for recurring national ceremonies. Generally speaking, historical memorials assume a special place in the identity of smaller local communities, and through them they become an important part of national heritage. Converting memorials to meet the requirements of the modern age and increasingly popular tourism is an important task, because there is a clear need, confirmed by international examples, for locations bridging past and present, and helping to experience national identity.

The Institute’s other important job – managing tasks related to the national cemetery – is also closely connected to “national heritage” and memorials. This “graveyard” is essentially a virtual pantheon comprising the graves of important figures of Hungarian history and culture. A unique memorial, it is considerably more than a real cemetery in that it brings together over six thousand listed graves around Hungary.

Cultural heritage needs to be preserved not only on a physical level, but also on an intellectual level in the minds and consciousness of the citizens of the nation. Official celebrations, conferences, education and the media (books, the Internet, television) serve that purpose. In the globalised world of the twenty-first century the most important universal and national challenge for the culture of remembrance is to actively engage the young generations.

The tendency today is that the main places of passing down traditions – the family and school – have been relegated in favour of television and in particular the Internet which is even more a space for establishing collective identity. Clearly, however, these media are important conveyors of knowledge and spaces for forming identity and community, which need to be used by NÖRI in doing its job. These means can perhaps help successfully undertake the challenging and noble task of promoting the culture of remembrance in the twenty-first century.