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Exploring the connotation of “Local Community” in ICOMOS discourse: a textual analysis based on authoritative documents


As an authoritative institution in cultural heritage conservation, ICOMOS plays a crucial role in guiding local communities’ participation in heritage conservation. However, its scattered and vague descriptions of local communities pose significant obstacles to further research and practice of community participation in heritage conservation. Given the increasing importance of local communities in heritage conservation, it is essential to systematically explore the connotation of Local Community connotations within ICOMOS discourse. This research employs Natural Language Processing methods to analyze ICOMOS’s descriptions of Local Community. Utilizing computational techniques of word frequency calculation, LDA (Latent Dirichlet Allocation) topic model keyword calculation, and hierarchical clustering calculation, the research uncovers relevant keywords and its thematic clusters of Local Community. These findings are further elucidated by aligning them with the principles outlined in authoritative documents of ICOMOS. The research indicates that ICOMOS’s descriptions of Local Community can be summarized into four main keywords families. These keywords families can be summarized as a comprehensive Local Community “three-level, four-family” keywords system. The “Tourism” keywords family exhibits a close association with Local Community, highlighting ICOMOS’s heightened emphasis on heritage tourism. The “Management-Development” keywords family occupies the second level, emphasizing fundamental principles for local communities’ participation in heritage practices. The “Traditional-Knowledge” and “Social-Economic” Keywords Families, situated in the third level, respectively describe the value attributes and conservation approaches of local communities. Each keywords family formed over different periods, exhibiting varying trends of development. By systematically integrating ICOMOS’s descriptions of Local Community and employing Natural Language Processing for in-depth exploration, This research aims to construct a cognitive understanding of local communities from a new perspective of quantitative text analysis, with the intention of providing theoretical references for subsequent research on local communities.


Since entering the twenty-first century, there is no doubt that Local Community1 has become a focal point of discussion among heritage scholars [1,2,3]. In 2007, the World Heritage Committee expanded its 4C global strategy on world heritage conservation (Creditability, Conservation, Capacity Building, Communication) to include “community” [4]. Furthermore, in the ICOMOS2International Charter for Cultural Heritage Tourism (2022)”, community resilience is explicitly included in the charter’s title [5]. Entering the twenty-first century, emerging Critical Heritage Studies argue that local communities, as the groups that create, use, and manage heritage, and imbue heritage with meaning, are more qualified to interpret the values and significance of heritage than authoritative heritage experts [6]. Despite scholars in Critical Heritage Studies critiquing the traditional authoritative approach to local communities, recent years there has been an undeniable surge in attention from authoritative organizations towards local communities. Simultaneously, facing the conservation requirements for historic urban areas in the “Valletta Principles for the Safeguarding and Management of Historic Cities, Towns and Urban Areas (2011)” [7] and the conservation needs for historic environments in the “Recommendation on the Historic Urban Landscape (2011)” [8], the scope of heritage conservation has expanded from the initial material essence of heritage to a broad historical spatial range, achieving a breakthrough from individual to collective, material to non-material [9,10,11]. This development poses significant challenges to the top-down authoritative heritage conservation system [12], highlighting the increasing need for the participation and assistance of local communities. By harnessing the power of communities to participate in heritage conservation, it becomes possible to extend the conservation and attention to a broader historical area and to delve deeper into the value of heritage. This becomes a new direction in heritage conservation research [13,14,15].

As the most significant international and professional organization in cultural heritage conservation, ICOMOS’s series of charters, declarations, and other publications have profoundly influenced heritage practices globally [16, 17]. These documents have shaped ICOMOS’s distinctive way of discussing, understanding, and interpreting heritage, collectively called “ICOMOS discourse” by discourse theory scholars [18,19,20]. Nowadays, the need for Local Community participation in heritage conservation is extremely urgent. At the same time, heritage organizations such as ICOMOS have increasingly emphasized the importance of local communities in their authoritative documents. Therefore, it is essential to clarify the approaches and recommendations that ICOMOS has put forward regarding local communities. Unfortunately, as an essential concept, ICOMOS’s descriptions of Community and Local Community is currently unclear [21]. When referring to “community,” does ICOMOS mean region-specific local communities, cultural communities that may include non-local groups such as heritage experts, or does it solely emphasize an international community involving everyone? Regarding Local Community, what specific recommendations does ICOMOS propose to facilitate their better participation in heritage value protection? There is currently no systematic answer. While a comprehensive understanding of heritage tourism can be obtained from the “International Cultural Heritage Tourism Charter (2022)” and recommendations for heritage value interpretation from the “ICOMOS Charter on the Interpretation and Presentation of Cultural Heritage Sites (2008),” there is no such complete authoritative documents of ICOMOS for Local Community. Information related to Local Community is scattered across various authoritative documents of ICOMOS (including documents such as “Charter on the Interpretation and Presentation of Cultural Heritage Sites (2008)”, “the Nara Document on Authenticity (1994)”, “Burra Charter (2013)”, and others), resulting in fragmented and non-systematic understanding of Local Community, a phenomenon evident in many conceptual areas. In response to the widespread issue of cognitive fragmentation within the heritage research field, ICOMOS has endeavored to promote the clarification of heritage-related concepts. In 2021, in collaboration with IUCN, ICOMOS released “Connecting Practice: A Commentary on Nature-Culture Keywords,” [22] focusing on the systematic interpretation of key terms such as biocultural, resilience, and traditional knowledge. Concepts like biocultural heritage and indigenous knowledge, which lacked separate articulation, were systematically interpreted. Unfortunately, Local Community are not interpreted separately, and unsystematic understanding of Local Community in authoritative documents of ICOMOS persists.

Currently, the lack of clarity in the concept of Local Community has caused significant challenges for researchers, further complicating the practical aspects of heritage conservation at the community level [23]. Taking China as an example, the academic community uses various concepts such as heritage community, heritage site community, and local urban community, encompassing diverse meanings, including “communities within the scope of heritage” [24], “communities formed by heritage and its surrounding environment” [25], and “communities formed by heritage itself” [26]. This diversity clearly poses significant challenges in determining “who belongs to a heritage’s Local Community.” For instance, Chandani K. defined the scope of heritage site communities within a 2 km radius and conducted research on the urban Local Community conditions in the historic city of Kathmandu, Nepal [27]. However, the simplistic use of a 2 km radius to define the scope of local communities appears to be a pragmatic but insufficient solution. In response to these challenges, scholars have made considerable efforts to elucidate the concept of Local Community. For example, Hanbyeol Jang analyzed the relationship between Local Community and well-being through textual analysis of WHC (World Heritage Committee) Operational Guidelines [28].

At present, ICOMOS’s conceptual interpretations have guided heritage scholars effectively. Whether for a more profound understanding of the authoritative documents of ICOMOS to enhance practical applications or for a critical examination of expressions, it has become essential to systematically integrate and delve into the implications of authoritative documents of ICOMOS regarding Local Community. For text implication exploration, emerging Natural Language Processing technologies offer innovative technical methods for relevant research. In an attempt to describe ICOMOS authoritative documents’ understanding of Local Community using quantitative data analysis methods, this research utilizes appropriate computer algorithms to analyze and process texts related to Local Community, providing an interpretation of Local Community based on computed results. The first part of this research reviews the development of the descriptions of Local Community in authoritative documents of ICOMOS. In the second part, Natural Language Processing methods are applied to analyze the descriptions, and in the third part, a discussion on ICOMOS’s understanding of Local Community and its development process takes place. The research explores the connotation of Local Community, offering insights and references for subsequent community research.

This article poses two research questions with the aim of achieving a deeper understanding of the concept of Local Community in ICOMOS discourse. The research questions are as follows:

  1. 1.

    As of today, what does the ICOMOS authoritative document say about local communities? What is the ICOMOS’s understanding of Local Community as reflected in them?

  2. 2.

    How has the ICOMOS’s understanding of Local Community evolved over time?

The evolution of Local Community descriptions in ICOMOS discourse

Although the term “Local Community”3 is not frequently mentioned in ICOMOS discourse (Among all occurrences of “community/-ies,” the term “Local Community/-ies” accounts for only 13.7% of the total occurrences), a more vague and broad term like “community” is used more often. However, the concept of “Community” mentioned in ICOMOS discourse tends to convey the idea of local communities [28], accounting for 93.3% of the total occurrences. The use of the term “community” in ICOMOS discourse traces back to the “Resolutions of the International Symposium on the Conservation of Smaller Historic Towns (1975)”, describing the Local Community structure of small towns [29]. In the “Charter of Cultural Tourism (1976),” ICOMOS introduced the term “Local Community” for the first time [30]. The “Burra Charter (1979)” is considered by many scholars as the starting point of community theory in authoritative discourse, proposing community participation as a heritage management tool4 [31]. The “Tlaxcala Declaration on the Revitalization of Small Settlements (1982) “ included more references to communities, introducing the concept of “community rights” and emphasizing the provision of more benefits to local communities while preserving heritage [32]. Although the “Tlaxcala Declaration (1982)” did not explicitly limit the scope of communities, the term “local” in its expressions has become closely associated with the concept of “Community.” [32] In the “Washington Charter (1987),” expressions related to urban local communities appeared, highlighting the promotion of harmony in urban historical areas as a key focus of the charter [33]. The “Burra Charter (1988)” similarly considered meeting the expectations and needs of communities as one of the goals of historic monument preservation [34].

From the word frequency statistics (Fig. 1), it is evident that initially, ICOMOS was in the process of exploring the concept of Local Community. Besides “Local Community,” expressions related to heritage communities5, such as “related communities” and “scientific communities,” were also frequently used. For instance, “the Nara Document on Authenticity (1994)” introduced the concept of “cultural community,” describing it as a group that expresses concern for heritage values [35]. During this period, the representation of communities was ambiguous – the standalone term “community” encompassed a multitude of meanings [21]. However, undoubtedly, in the majority of cases in ICOMOS discourse, the term “local” became the qualifier for communities if not explicitly emphasized. The discourse vaguely insisted on the significance to local communities in the context of cultural heritage values. It explicitly highlighted the necessity of community participation and the maintenance of community well-being. However, the specific nature of the relationship between communities and heritage, as well as the levels at which communities should participate in heritage preservation, remained aspects that ICOMOS discourse gradually explored during this period.

Fig. 1
figure 1

Frequency variations of the term “Local Community” in ICOMOS discourse

Starting with the “the Declaration of San Antonio (1996)”, there was a significant increase in ICOMOS discourse regarding communities, marking substantial development in the understanding of local communities [36]. Since 1976, the term “Local Community” has reappeared in the “the Declaration of San Antonio (1996).” It proposed that communities closely associated with heritage sites contribute to the value of the heritage site and emphasized considering the needs and values of local communities when determining the future of cultural landscapes [36]. “The Declaration of San Antonio (1996)” reinforced the idea that local communities have cultural rights over cultural heritage, a viewpoint reiterated in “the Stockholm Declaration (1996)” [37]. A significant number of expressions related to Local Community emerged in the “International Cultural Tourism Charter (1999),” revealing a notable and close connection between local communities and cultural heritage at the tourism level [38]. This reflects ICOMOS’s substantial development in understanding the relationship between heritage tourism and communities. The “Charter on the Built Vernacular Heritage (1999)” proposed that vernacular architectural heritage is a fundamental expression of the culture of heritage site communities, and the degree of association with heritage site communities is an essential indicator for identifying vernacular architectural heritage [39]. The value and significance of local communities were further affirmed. Subsequent resolutions continued to emphasize the necessity of community participation, presenting various community participation measures such as strategic planning and community education. ICOMOS discourse illustrates the close connection between local communities and heritage in the context of heritage interpretation and presentation. This is particularly evident in “the ICOMOS Charter for the Interpretation and Presentation of Cultural Heritage Sites (2008),” which emphasizes goals such as promoting understanding and appreciation of cultural heritage, raising public awareness and participation in the conservation of cultural heritage, with many of these tasks entrusted to local communities [40]. The “ICOMOS New Zealand Charter for the Conservation of Places of Cultural Heritage Value (2010)” elevated the significance of heritage conservation to the level of “underpin and reinforce community identity and relationships to ancestors and the land.” Local communities are no longer valued solely because of heritage but, to some extent, view heritage as a product of the Local Community [41]. This aligns with the perspectives of critical heritage studies [42], reflecting the evolving heritage concepts within ICOMOS. Subsequent ICOMOS discourse continued to focus on local communities, reaching a peak in the “International Charter for Cultural Heritage Tourism (2022)” [5].

After 1996, ICOMOS discourse continued to show sustained attention to local communities, reflecting two trends in its expressions. First, the value and significance of local communities continued to evolve, encompassing a more extensive range of heritage value attributes and forming evident concentrations in heritage tourism. Second, from initially focusing on community well-being and encouraging community participation, there has been a gradual shift in the heritage concepts within authoritative heritage discourse. This shift acknowledges that the meaning of Local Community in heritage extends beyond preserving heritage value, recognizing their significance in the generation of the intrinsic value of heritage. Local communities are no longer viewed as mere tools for heritage conservation or passive participants. However, when dealing with local communities, ICOMOS still exhibits ambiguity. While local communities appear as tools in various authoritative documents of ICOMOS, they have not formed their own theoretical system. This ambiguity has not been resolved to date. Therefore, it becomes very meaningful to use computational methods to attempt to answer which concepts are associated with the Local Community described by ICOMOS.

Textual analysis of ICOMOS discourse


This research analyzes authoritative heritage documents listed on the ICOMOS organization’s official website ( as the primary sample [43]. These documents include three categories: Charter documents (CHARTERS ADOPTED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF ICOMOS, CHA, 22 documents), resolutions and declarations (RESOLUTIONS AND DECLARATIONS, RAD, 17 documents), and documents from national committees (CHARTERS ADOPTED BY ICOMOS NATIONAL COMMITTEES, CNC, 8 documents), totaling 47 documents. The expressions related to “community/communities” were extracted from each document, serving as the core data source for this article. In the 47 documents, a total of 357 instances of “community/communities” related expressions were extracted. Most of these instances are simple mentions of “community/communities” without the qualification of “local” (This type of description occurs 308 times). In most cases, these expressions can clearly refer to Local Community or include Local Community along with other relevant groups. Such expressions are considered relevant to Local Community and are included in the scope of consideration in this article. Some expressions, such as scientific communities (e.g., “scientific community” mentioned in the “Salalah Guidelines for the Management of Public Archaeological Sites (2017)” [44]), or broad and non-specific expressions like human communities (e.g., “human community” in the “Charter of Cultural Tourism (1976)” [30]) and international communities (e.g., “international community” in the “Paris Declaration (2011)” [45]), which do not specifically describe Local Community, were excluded from consideration. Ultimately, 24 expressions were excluded, and a total of 333 expressions were considered by this article as descriptions related to Local Community (Fig. 2), forming the basis of the dataset.

Fig. 2
figure 2

Local Community text data sources

It’s important to note that the authoritative documents of ICOMOS selected by the research do not encompass the full spectrum of the authoritative documents of ICOMOS. Many local charters and other publications were excluded from this research’s scope, resulting in certain limitations regarding locality and timeliness in the findings. Nevertheless, this research takes a wide-angle approach to explore ICOMOS’s global perspective on Local Community, requiring the inclusion of globally recognized authoritative documents of ICOMOS for thorough analysis. Frankly, although ICOMOS’s extensive publications offer significant progress and guidance, their impact and spread cannot be directly compared with that of international charters, especially in non-European and non-English-speaking regions. The understanding of Local Community as per ICOMOS differs markedly across regions due to varied actual conditions. Once in a while, ICOMOS publications are neither translated nor promoted by local ICOMOS branches, suggesting that these regions’ perspectives are not fully reflected in these documents. Therefore, the insights gained in this research may not entirely capture ICOMOS’s comprehensive stance. The selection of local charters is based on similar logic. We prefer recognized local charters like the “Burra Charter (2013),” which have already achieved widespread acknowledgment. For other local charters, we aim to incorporate them into future specialized studies targeting specific areas.

Research methods

Given the ongoing relevance of the authoritative documents of ICOMOS in heritage practice, their portrayals of Local Community remain of significant reference value. Thus, it’s essential to conduct an exhaustive analysis of all statements made by ICOMOS regarding local communities over the past fifty years. Furthermore, as ICOMOS’s understanding of Local Community evolves, comparative studies spanning different time frames are crucial to trace this cognitive evolution. Consequently, this research encompasses two main analytical components: Firstly, aggregating all descriptions by ICOMOS to form a comprehensive view of its stance on Local Community. Secondly, segmenting ICOMOS’s descriptions into four distinct time periods—before 1996, 1996–2005, 2006–2015, and 2016–20236—to analyze and compare its understanding across these eras.

Employing Natural Language Processing (NLP) to process textual data enables the effective identification of inherent links among keywords (keywords can be seen as the concept or idea that showed in the description of the authoritative documents of ICOMOS towards Local Community) related to Local Community. By analyzing the quantitative relationships, logical positioning, co-occurrences, and clustering of various keywords, a network mapping the relationships between keywords associated with Local Community is established. This approach aims to answer two primary questions: Question 1, which keywords are closely related to the concept of Local Community, and what is their importance? Question 2, into how many clusters can these closely related keywords be organized?

This research uses the Python programming language as an implementation of data analysis7. The process of Natural Language Processing computation on the data in this research is outlined in Fig. 3 and involves three main steps: data preprocessing, data denoising, and data computation. The data preprocessing involves transforming the basic dataset containing 333 expressions into a processed dataset suitable for natural language computation. This includes tokenization and stop words removal. Stop words refer to words in the expressions that lack clear meaning, such as “the,” “and,” “also,” “a,” etc. The stop words list used in this text is imported from the NLTK library in Python. Data denoising, built on the foundation of data preprocessing, involves creating a co-occurrence matrix to preliminarily identify and eliminate impactful concrete terms for the research results. The co-occurrence matrix is a Natural Language Processing method for analyzing the relationships between vocabulary, evaluating the co-occurrence frequency of words to assess their association [46]. This research utilizes a co-occurrence matrix to preliminarily assess the impact of certain nouns on the research results and to remove noise. The co-occurrence matrix is constructed using the pandas library in Python.

Fig. 3
figure 3

Textual analysis technology roadmap

After data preprocessing and noise reduction, a computation dataset suitable for data analysis was obtained. This research’s text analysis mainly comprises three parts, cross-referencing different processing results to form a rigorous understanding of Local Community. These three parts include word frequency calculation, LDA (Latent Dirichlet Allocation) topic model keyword calculation, and hierarchical clustering calculation.

Word frequency calculation involves counting the occurrences of various keywords in the data, forming a relatively basic and straightforward understanding of the keywords distribution, facilitating the subsequent calculations. This research utilizes the collections library in Python to compute word frequencies. Following this, the LDA topic model is employed to address Question 1: which keywords are closely related to Local Community. LDA, proposed by David M., Andrew Y., and Jordan I. in 2003, is a topic model used to infer the topic distribution of a document [47]. It provides the probability distribution of topics for each document in a document set. By analyzing the topic distribution of some documents and performing topic clustering based on this distribution, keywords related to the text are obtained. Simply put, LDA believes that several words constitute a topic, and the document contains multiple topics. LDA imagines the number of possible topics for a document (usually calculated). Each topic represents a set of words. The goal of LDA is to map all documents to topics in such a way that the words in each document are mostly captured by those imaginary topics (Fig. 4). The keywords in the topics extracted by the LDA topic model are arranged in descending order according to the relevant weights, and the importance of the relevant keywords to the topic can be evaluated. In this study, the appropriate number of topics was obtained by calculating documents in the computation dataset and then the LDA topic model was calculated. The obtained keyword groups (topic) can reflect the connection with the Local Community. Keywords that appear in large numbers in each keyword group are considered to be elements closely related to Local Community. (Keywords that are important in all topics related to Local Community are also important to Local Community itself). This part of the calculation content also provides reference for hierarchical clustering calculations. This research leverages Python’s gensim library for computing the LDA topic model. It begins by calculating the coherence score of the dataset to determine the optimal number of topics. Following this, LDA topic modeling and keyword extraction are conducted. The computational results are visualized using the pyLDAvis.gensim_models library, with adjustments to the λ value for enhanced visualization. Setting the λ value to 1 allows the order of generated words to more effectively represent the importance of various keywords across different topics [48, 49].

Fig. 4
figure 4

LDA topic model illustration

Next, hierarchical clustering is employed to address Question 2 (how many clusters can the keywords closely related to Local Community be summarized into) and achieve a systematic classification of related keywords. Hierarchical clustering is a clustering algorithm that creates a hierarchical nested clustering tree by calculating the similarity between different category data points. It performs well in small-sample data. In the clustering tree, the original data points of different categories are at the lowest level, and the top level is the root node of a cluster [50]. Through hierarchical clustering, keywords with relatively consistent descriptions can be continually grouped, effectively identifying clusters of expressions about Local Community in authorized heritage discourse. Hierarchical clustering involves various specific algorithms and clustering rules. In this research, the sklearn algorithm is chosen to implement hierarchical clustering, and the ward algorithm is selected as the clustering rule. These methods tends to merge individual entities into groups as much as possible first and then iteratively merges them based on the initial merging, achieving better clustering results (Fig. 5) [51]. In terms of specific algorithm design, the first step involves constructing a co-occurrence matrix for the dataset using the pandas library in Python. Then, hierarchical clustering computation is performed using the sklearn library, with the linkage parameter set to “ward”. Finally, a visualization dendrogram is generated using the matplotlib library. Keywords participating in hierarchical clustering were selected based on word frequency and the results calculated by the LDA topic model, indicating that the selected keywords are relevant and important to the “Local Community” from multiple perspectives.

Fig. 5
figure 5

Hierarchical clustering illustration


In the co-occurrence matrix calculation during data denoising, it was observed that heritage, cultural, local, and community/communities are closely related. However, considering that the focus of this research is ICOMOS itself, an international organization dedicated to cultural heritage, and Local Community are the research and data extraction objects, the close association of “heritage,” “cultural,” “local,” and “community/communities” with this research is considered irrelevant. Simultaneously, to meet the specific requirements of the LDA model and hierarchical clustering calculations, data denoising was performed, and the results are illustrated in Fig. 6.

Fig. 6
figure 6

Calculation results of data denoising

The overall computational results

The preliminary word frequency calculation results for the processed dataset are presented in Table 1. The results indicate that the term “tourism” (number = 95) has an absolute numerical advantage, showing a significant difference in quantity compared to other keywords. While “management (number = 51),” “values (number = 50),” “conservation (number = 49),” and “development (number = 49)” have lower frequencies than “tourism” and more minor internal differences, they still form a substantial gap with the subsequent words, highlighting a solid correlation with Local Community.

Table 1 Top 30 words, word frequencies, and their word clouds

The computation of the LDA topic model starts by determining the modeling quantity by calculating topic coherence. The topic-coherence calculation result for the dataset in this research is shown in Fig. 7. Based on this, the number of topics for the LDA topic model is set to 5. The results of the LDA topic model computation are presented in Fig. 8. In the fourth quadrant of the topics, the five circles representing the selected topics are independent and do not overlap, indicating a good modeling effect. After selecting the topics, approaching the λ value to 1 adequately reflects the weight of relevant keywords in the topics (Fig. 8b–f), and the keyword sequences for each topic are provided in Table 2. Consistent with the results of word frequency calculation, tourism emerges as the most critical keyword for Local Community. Following this, management, conservation, values, and development are also supported by multiple topics for their significance to Local Community. While keywords such as traditional, interpretation, and knowledge hold essential positions in Local Community, their importance fluctuates significantly from different perspectives.

Fig. 7
figure 7

Results of Topic-Coherence calculation

Fig. 8
figure 8

Results of LDA topic modeling (a) Results of LDA Topic Modeling (b-f) Weights of Key Terms for Each Topic in the LDA Topic Modeling: Topic 1-5

Table 2 Output for each topic of LAD modeling

The dendrogram of the hierarchical clustering reveals the cluster relationships among various keywords (Fig. 9). The hierarchical clustering result indicates that internal keywords of Local Community s can be divided into four clusters. Heritage tourism stands out as a distinct category, reflecting its strong uniqueness and importance among the keywords related to Local Community. Keywords such as “management,” “development,” and “values,” which are crucial to Local Community based on both word frequency and LDA model calculations, are grouped together. “Conservation” shows close ties with “must,” while the “host,” closely related to “tourism,” aligns consistently with “management.” Other keywords of lesser importance compared to the above and with different values to Local Community are further divided into two clusters. In the cluster where “traditional” and “knowledge” hold unique value meanings, keywords like “people,” “identity,” and “landscapes” are included, with the “associated-people—site-identify” showing close connections. In the cluster where “social” and “economic” keywords play a central role, the “values” and “sites—interpretation” exhibit strong correlation, and “visitors” with “programs,” “activities” with “protection” also display certain connections.

Fig. 9
figure 9

Overall hierarchical clustering dendrogram

The computational results from Natural Language Processing indicate that the internal keywords of Local Community can be hierarchically categorized into three levels and four clusters. The first level is heritage tourism, which maintains the most crucial relationship with local communities. The second level consists of the protection, management, and development of local communities, all considered keywords from different perspectives. The third level comprises two clusters, reflecting a certain level of importance and cohesion. However, the importance varies when viewed from different perspectives.

The computational results to different time periods

This research categorizes the descriptions of ICOMOS documents across four distinct periods: before 1996, 1996–2005, 2006–2015, and 2016–2023, using 1996 as a pivotal year. Considering the small amount of data in some of the time periods, it is difficult for them to achieve good results in LDA topic model calculations. So the focus shifts towards generating word frequency and hierarchical clustering outcomes for each designated period. The approach to calculating word frequency and hierarchical clustering remains aligned with the overarching computation strategy. The results of the word frequency analysis are presented in Table 3, while the outcomes of the hierarchical clustering are depicted in Fig. 10. The analysis reveals that prior to 1996, “conservation” seemingly dominated the discourse on local communities, albeit without a marked frequency disparity from other keywords. Between 1996 and 2005, “tourism” surged as a significantly more frequent term, though “conservation” continued to be notably mentioned. During the 2006–2015 timeframe, “development” and “traditional” ascended as a commonly occurring keyword, with negligible frequency variations among different terms. From 2016 to 2023, “tourism” re-emerged as a highly prevalent keyword, alongside “management,” which surfaced as a newly prominent term.

Table 3 Top 10 words and word frequencies of ICOMOS authoritative documents for Time-phased Result
Fig. 10
figure 10

Hierarchical clustering dendrogram for Time-phased result

This research applied hierarchical clustering analysis to the textual data across the four delineated periods, uncovering marked distinctions in the thematic structures. Prior to 1996, discussions on local communities were notably cohesive, with a dense interconnection of themes, resulting in three tightly knit clusters. Between 1996 and 2005, a distinct diversification of themes was observed, with “tourism” and “conservation” emerging as pivotal themes, though other keywords also formed interconnected clusters. During the 2006 to 2015 timeframe, “tourism” shifted from its central thematic role, making way for “traditional” and “development” to emerge as prominent clusters holding key thematic positions. Despite this shift, “tourism” retained its significance, particularly within the “development” cluster. From 2016 to 2023, the ICOMOS’s discussions on local communities evolved into four distinct clusters: “tourism” resurfaced as a significant theme, “management” emerged as the nucleus of another major cluster with close ties to “tourism”. “traditional” maintained its importance within its own cluster, which further diverged into clusters exhibiting unique characteristics. Notably, “Rural-Landscape” emerged as a novel cluster, intricately connected to the “traditional” theme, indicating a broadening of thematic focus within the discourse on local communities.

The overall understanding and development processing of Local Community

Through text computation, this research conducts a quantitative analysis of ICOMOS’s descriptions of Local Community. According to the overall computational results, the descriptions of Local Community in ICOMOS over the past fifty years can be deconstructed into four components. Combining the specific context of ICOMOS discourse, we provide explanations for these keywords families. By counting the occurrences of each keyword in ICOMOS discourse on Local Community, we identify the authoritative documents of ICOMOS closely related to each keyword8. Drawing on the specific viewpoints in these authoritative documents, we interpret ICOMOS’s understanding of Local Community based on their core concepts:

The first component is the “Tourism” Family, namely heritage tourism. Over the past fifty years, “Tourism” has been regarded as the most crucial keyword and task for local communities in the authoritative documents of ICOMOS. While this perspective has long been acknowledged by most scholars [52, 53], debates about the relationship between local communities and tourism are widespread [6]. Without a doubt, the authoritative documents of ICOMOS closely related to the “Tourism” Keywords Family are ICOMOS charters on tourism: the “Charter of Cultural Tourism (1976),” the “International Cultural Tourism Charter (1999), and the “International Charter for Cultural Heritage Tourism (2022)”. As early as 1976, tourism was recognized as a flourishing social development trend by ICOMOS [30]. ICOMOS paid attention to the increasing influence of tourism on cultural heritage rights and the demands of various sectors of society. In the form of the authoritative documents, ICOMOS provided interpretations of cultural heritage tourism. Recognizing the negative impact of tourism on heritage, ICOMOS proposed that respecting cultural heritage should be the top priority. At the same time, local communities were included as beneficiaries of heritage tourism. These viewpoints remain the core spirit of heritage tourism to this day. Heritage tourism has become the heritage participation method most closely related to the relationship between local communities. The “International Cultural Tourism Charter (1999)” again emphasized that cultural heritage belongs to all humanity as an essential heritage right. It regarded heritage tourism as an essential means of heritage interpretation and presentation [38]. At the same time, the charter explicitly stated that heritage tourism should benefit local communities and provide them with essential means and motivations to care for and maintain their heritage and cultural traditions. Advancing to the “International Charter for Cultural Heritage Tourism (2022),” local communities, while adhering to the spirit of previous authoritative documents of ICOMOS, play a role in showcasing heritage and deriving benefits. Meanwhile, heritage’s sustainable development is considered a significant driving force for community development [5]. The deep participation of communities in heritage tourism, driving the collaborative and sustainable development of heritage and communities, will also become an essential direction for the growth of local communities.

The second component is the “Management-Development” Family, which includes the keywords of “management,” “host,” “must,” “conservation,” and “development.” “Management” appears most frequently in the “International Charter for Cultural Heritage Tourism (2022)” (number = 13), followed by “Salalah Guidelines for the Management of Public Archaeological Sites (2017)” (number = 8). ICOMOS discourse on “management” encompasses three aspects: what to manage, who manages, and how to manage. Specifically, ICOMOS emphasizes encouraging local communities to participate in heritage management, underscores the importance of scientific management plans, and provides guiding management methods such as sustainable management and transparent management. “Host” is a keyword closely related to tourism. It appears frequently in the “International Cultural Tourism Charter (1999)” (number = 23) and the “International Charter for Cultural Heritage Tourism (2022)” (number = 12), while its distribution in other authoritative documents of ICOMOS is relatively sparse. One example with a relatively higher occurrence is the “ICOMOS Charter on the Interpretation and Presentation of Cultural Heritage Sites (2008)” (number = 3). In the context of local communities, the term “host” has a specific and fixed meaning. It represents communities that provide services to tourists from a tourism perspective, with local communities holding significant weight. “Must” (high occurrence in the “Charter for the Preservation of Quebec’s Heritage (1982)”, number = 5) [54] in the context of Local Community is often used to protect the fundamental rights of local communities, specifying that heritage conservation must address certain aspects of the Local Community, such as “the conservation of the built vernacular heritage must be carried out by multidisciplinary expertise while recognizing the inevitability of change and development, and the need to respect the community’s established cultural identity [39]. “Similarly, “conservation” appears relatively evenly across various documents. It occurs relatively more frequently in the “Charter for the Conservation of Places of Cultural Heritage Value (2010)” (number = 3). In the context of Local Community, it is used to emphasize the importance of community participation in heritage conservation and involves conceptual descriptions without specifying concrete conservation methods. “Development”, which appears frequently in “The Paris Declaration (2011)” (number = 12) [45], includes both cultural and heritage development implications and the meaning of Local Community development. In some expressions, it also carries the closely related implication of “development” in the tourism context. Summarizing the specific connotations of relevant keywords in the context of Local Community, The “Management-Development” Family can generally be summarized as the basic principles adopted by ICOMOS over the past fifty years in addressing local communities through various types of documents. It reflects the important issues that must be considered in related to local communities, including strong encouragement for Local Community participation in heritage conservation, clear and reasonable protection management plans, absolute respect for the basic rights of local communities, and facilitating the common development of cultural heritage and local communities. These four core requirements demonstrate a strong level of comprehensiveness. Additionally, the “Management-Development” Family is notably influenced by the “Tourism” Family.

The third component is the “Traditional-Knowledge” Family, which includes keywords such as “traditional,” “knowledge,” “identity,” “associated,” “people,” “life,” “landscapes,” and “well-being.” This family primarily describes the intrinsic attributes of the Local Community. “Traditional” appears most frequently in the “Florence Declaration (2014)” (number = 7). It often emphasizes the historical actions and cognition formed by the Local Community and heritage over a long period of development. Specific descriptions include “traditional rights” and “traditional activities. “Similarly, “knowledge” emphasizes the community’s knowledge, including terms like “traditional knowledge” and “indigenous knowledge.” [55]”Knowledge” also appears most frequently in the “Florence Declaration (2014)” (number = 8) [56]. “Identity” appears noticeably more frequently in the “ICOMOS Guidelines on Fortifications and Military Heritage (2021)” (number = 6) [57] and the “Florence Declaration (2014)” (n = 4). It is another keyword used to describe the Local Community in discourse, often depicted as “cultural identity” or “community identity. “People” appears more frequently (number = 4) in the “Buenos Aires Declaration (2018)” [58]. In many cases, it appears in two forms: 1. “local/indigenous people”, which emphasizes local individuals in local communities; 2. “people and communities”, which is used to reflect a subordinate structure of local communities. There are a lot of such expressions, which shows that “people”, as the bearers of local characteristics of local communities, play an important role in Local Community [59]. The “Traditional-Knowledge” Family emphasizes the intrinsic values of the Local Community in heritage conservation and the local attributes of Local Community, answering the question of “what is a Local Community.” It can be regarded as relevant elements that local communities need to be protected and valued when heritage scholars carry out heritage conservation and encourage local communities to participate in heritage conservation. This includes traditional knowledge, cultural identity, indigenous and traditional community landscapes, and more. The “Traditional-Knowledge” Family is positioned in the third level, following the “Tourism” Family and the “Management-Development” Family. From the perspective of ICOMOS, these keywords related to local communities are considered valuable and should be taken into account. It underscores the importance of recognizing the cultural background and historical value of local communities when dealing with them.

The fourth component is the “Social-Economic” Family, encompassing keywords such as “social,” “economic,” “interpretation,” “values,” “programmes,” “visitors,” “activities,” and “natural.” In the context of Local Community, “social” and “economic” often appear together, conveying relatively complex meanings. “Social” (appears prominently in the “Paris Declaration (2011)”, number = 6) implies the social benefits of heritage conservation for local communities and the preservation of social cohesion. On the other hand, the core idea expressed by “economic” (appears prominently in the “Paris Declaration (2011)”, number = 5) is to ensure that local communities receive economic benefits and respect in their participation in heritage conservation processes. “Interpretation” is associated with “values,” aligning with the core principles of the “ICOMOS Charter for the Interpretation and Presentation of Cultural Heritage Sites (2008)” [40]. “Programmes” also appears more frequently in “ICOMOS Charter for the Interpretation and Presentation of Cultural Heritage Sites (2008)” (number = 6). It emphasizes the implementation of specific projects to drive practical participation of local communities in heritage conservation. Common examples include “interpretation programs,” “tourism programs,” and “education programs.” “Visitors” undeniably emphasizes the concept of “tourism.” It appears extensively in various tourism charters, while occurring less frequently in other documents. “Activities” carries a dual meaning, describing both the attributes of local communities, such as “traditional activities,” and methods of conservation, such as “tourism activities”, which appears more frequently in “International Cultural Tourism Charter (1999)” (number = 5). Notably, even in studies focusing on cultural heritage and local communities, “natural” occupies a key position. However, it appears almost exclusively in tourism charters. While it is often parallel to culture in the context of local communities and is not explicitly explained in the cultural heritage of local communities, initiatives like CultureNature Journey demonstrate the inseparability of culture and nature in Local Community [60]. The keywords in the “Social-Economic” Family collectively emphasize relatively concrete methods for the heritage practices of local communities, answering the question of “how local communities should act.” It provides a series of guiding keywords, such as setting the goal of achieving economic and social development for local communities, disseminating heritage values through interpretation, and implementing a series of tourism and interpretation projects in a rational and scientific manner.

The descriptions of Local Community in ICOMOS discourse can be summarized into three levels and four families. This demonstrates a summary of the definitions, measures, principles, and other issues related to local communities described in various documents over the past fifty years (Fig. 11). It is important to note that this model summarizes ICOMOS’s descriptions of Local Community to date and does not necessarily represent ICOMOS’s current views on local communities. This is a summary conclusion, and ICOMOS’s understanding of Local Community today has further evolved based on this foundation. The “Tourism” Family occupies a central position for Local Community, making heritage tourism an essential consideration and method when addressing issues related to Local Community participation in heritage practices. The “Management-Development” Family emphasizes relevant issues that local communities should not be overlooked from various perspectives. It represents the fundamental principles for Local Community participation in heritage practices, including encouraging Local Community participation in heritage conservation, specifying reasonable conservation management plans, respecting the basic rights of local communities, and fostering the joint development of cultural heritage and local communities. The “Traditional-Knowledge” and “Social-Economic” Families are positioned at the third level, representing aspects that should be considered in the discourse but are more of recommendations than essential considerations within the ICOMOS framework. The “Traditional-Knowledge” Family elucidates the value content of local communities, considering keywords such as “traditional knowledge,” “cultural identity,” and “indigenous communities” as crucial components of local communities. The “Social-Economic” Family provides feasible methods for Local Community participation in heritage practices, including heritage value interpretation, economic and social development orientation, and viable projects, among others.

Fig. 11
figure 11

ICOMOS Local Community discourse structure diagram

ICOMOS’s discourse on Local Community has evolved significantly, as evidenced by time-phased computational analyses. Prior to 1996, the authoritative documents of ICOMOS contained limited descriptions of Local Community, with keywords being closely interlinked. An attempt to categorize these into three segments reveals that “towns” and “urban” were closely associated, highlighting early discussions on the spatial attributes of Local Community. Post 1996, these categories, along with keywords like “urban,” “centre,” and “towns,” ceased to be significantly represented or to form major groups within the discourse on local communities. The focus shifted towards groups encompassing “natural,” “social,” and “participation,” marking a pivotal turn in ICOMOS’s narrative on Local Community. From 1996 to 2005, ICOMOS’s discourse began to distinguish clear, unique groups—the “Tourism” and “Management-Development” keywords Families, though they were initially merged. Despite the difficulty in separating other keywords, the foundation for the “Traditional-Knowledge” and “Social-Economic” Keywords Families was laid, setting the stage for the next two decades of discourse development. Between 2006 and 2015, the “Tourism” Keywords Family became distinct from the “Management-Development” Family, and the “Traditional-Knowledge” Family began to take shape. The period from 2016 to 2023 saw further delineation among these families, with the “Social-Economic” Family fully emerging. Compared to the relationships that have developed over the past fifty years, the relationships exhibited in 2016–2023 are more similar overall, but there are still differences such as: (1) The “Tourism” Keywords Family was less dominant than anticipated, with a downward trend; (2) The “Management-Development” discourse was significantly enriched; (3) The “Social-Economic” Family showed potential for further refinement; (4) The “Rural-Landscapes” Family emerged as a new direction in the discourse. It’s important to recognize the inconsistency in the data across the four periods studied, which underscores the coherence and evolution of ICOMOS’s expressions regarding local communities. This analysis not only tracks the shifting focus within ICOMOS’s discourse but also anticipates future directions and refinements in understanding Local Community.

Discussion and conclusion


With the evolution of heritage practices and theory, the importance of communities has increasingly been recognized by scholars in the field of heritage conservation. The Local Community, defined as groups with the most direct spatial and social connections to heritage sites, has become an essential societal component in the conservation of heritage within the framework of sustainable development goals. Nonetheless, local communities are currently facing unprecedented challenges brought about by economic growth and urban–rural development, existing the significant gaps in understanding and perception. As a leading authority in the realm of heritage conservation, ICOMOS has proactively engaged with these challenges, demonstrating a commitment to integrating the insights and needs of local communities into the broader agenda of sustainable heritage conservation. This proactive stance underscores the organization’s recognition of the pivotal role local communities play in ensuring the enduring relevance and preservation of heritage sites [17, 61]. Since 1996, ICOMOS has significantly enhanced its understanding and portrayal of local communities, emphasizing their intrinsic value and broadening its focus to include tourism, interpretation, well-being, and traditional knowledge. This shift underscores the organization’s acknowledgment of the vital role local communities play in heritage conservation. By synthesizing the cognitive evolution over the past fifty years, ICOMOS’s understanding of Local Community has been distilled into a hierarchical structure with four thematic keywords families. These keywords families cover the values, development initiatives, conservation principles, and various facets pertinent to the Local Community, highlighting the comprehensive approach ICOMOS takes towards integrating community perspectives into heritage conservation efforts.

So far, it appears that ICOMOS has not perfectly addressed the various conceptually and practical challenges faced by local communities [62]. Moreover, ICOMOS’s understanding seems to differ somewhat from that of other authoritative institutions. Using a similar methodology, this research conducted calculations on authoritative documents of World Heritage Committee (WHC). The results were compared with those of ICOMOS authoritative documents. The WHC’s selected documents include the “Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention (2023)” [63] and short descriptions of heritage sites in the World Heritage List [64], forming normative and descriptive textual understandings of Local Community, respectively. The results of the calculations are presented in Fig. 12. Compared to ICOMOS, the WHC places a stronger focus on the distinctive local characteristics and inhabitants of Local Community in its standard understanding. The WHC further stresses the importance of managing and developing local communities. Specifically, within the “Social-Economic” Keywords Family, the WHC offers more detailed explorations. Notably, tourism, a keyword in ICOMOS’s description, receives less emphasis from the WHC, highlighting the most pronounced divergence between the two organizations. The WHC’s descriptions of local communities paints a distinct picture, with descriptions that more directly address the landscapes, traditions, and changes over time within local communities. Some keywords, such as stakeholder, are obviously of great significance to Local Community [65, 66]. They do not appear to be very important in the ICOMOS keyword system, but they can be clearly seen to be very important in the WHC system. This creates a difference that is interesting and worth thinking about.

Fig. 12
figure 12

Hierarchical clustering dendrogram for WHC authoritative documents

Through an exhaustive analysis combining cognitive development review and discourse evaluation via Natural Language Processing, it’s observed that ICOMOS has been notably influenced by Critical Heritage Studies since the onset of the twenty-first century. This influence has steered ICOMOS towards placing a heightened focus on local communities [41]. However, up to the present, ICOMOS continues to employ ambiguous terminology in discussions about local communities, presenting considerable obstacles in achieving a consensus on the definition and roles of these communities [21]. ICOMOS’s significant focus on heritage tourism, coupled with its display of contradictory and complex attitudes, undeniably presents challenges for local communities in fully engaging with heritage tourism. This situation creates a paradox, especially when considering the WHC’s apparently differing perspective on this issue, as highlighted by some scholars [67]. Nonetheless, it is critical to observe that, when comparing the comprehensive research covering over fifty years with the studies conducted from 2016 to 2023, the pivotal role of tourism in local communities has seen a relative decline. Despite heightened focus, ICOMOS persistently views local communities primarily as users and beneficiaries of heritage, rather than acknowledging them as creators of heritage, a viewpoint strongly advocated by critical heritage studies. This ICOMOS’s perspective neglects the value that local communities contribute to heritage through their prolonged coexistence with it, an aspect that ICOMOS has yet to fully appreciate [5]. However, there is a trend towards further subdivision and refinement within the “Social-Economic” keywords group, which may enhance ICOMOS’s understanding of Local Community and reflect a trend towards alignment with WHC.

It is important to note that this research has certain limitations. Firstly, this research focuses on the primary authoritative documents of ICOMOS spanning the last fifty years. It does not encompass many other publications and documents, making the interpretation of the Local Community concept by ICOMOS foundational. Consequently, it doesn’t fully capture the most current understanding of ICOMOS or represent the organization’s attitudes across different regions comprehensively. Future research can build on this research’s foundation for more detailed exploration. Secondly, the research methodology, which employs Natural Language Processing (NLP), assesses correlations between keywords through complex mathematical operations based on word positional relationships. This approach may differ from interpretations that require a deeper understanding of expressions. Newer text understanding methods promise to bridge this gap, yet applying them in the heritage conservation field necessitates developing extensive language models supported by a wealth of heritage conservation discourse and advanced AI technology. Addressing these challenges is an objective this research aims to fulfill moving forward.


In summary, this research utilizes Natural Language Processing to analyze the authoritative documents of ICOMOS on the expression of the Local Community, addressing two key questions about the concept of Local Community in ICOMOS discourse: what is the ICOMOS authoritative documents’ understanding of Local Community to date and how has this understanding evolved? The analysis reveals that Local Community is intricately linked to keywords such as “management,” “conservation,” “values,” “development,” “tradition,” “interpretation,” and “knowledge.” Among these keywords, the importance of “interpretation” and “knowledge” varies significantly with changing perspectives, while the significance of keywords like “management” and “conservation” remains consistently high. Due to the continuous clustering of similarities, keywords related to Local Community have been organized into four Keyword Families. Integrating the findings from both questions and employing textual representations for clarification, this research introduces a “three-level, four-family” structure to articulate the understanding of Local Community within the ICOMOS discourse.

In ICOMOS authoritative documents, the descriptions of Local Community prioritize the “Tourism” Keywords Family at the forefront, highlighting ICOMOS’s focus on and support for heritage tourism within local communities. Following in importance is the “Management-Development” Keywords Family, which outlines the fundamental principles of Local Community engagement in heritage practices. This encompasses promoting community participation in heritage conservation, establishing sensible conservation management plans, honoring the basic rights of local communities, and advocating for the mutual growth of cultural heritage and local communities as essential criteria. The “Traditional-Knowledge” Keywords Family, ranked at the third level, emphasizes the inherent value of local communities, addressing the question of “what local communities are.” It specifically points to traditional knowledge, cultural identity, and indigenous populations as key components of local communities. The “Social-Economic” Keywords Family, also placed at the third level, sheds light on the manner in which local communities should participate in heritage practices, suggesting strategies such as interpreting heritage values, guiding socio-economic development, and implementing viable projects.

The evolution of Local Community keywords families has undergone a discernible progression. Prior to 1996, ICOMOS authoritative documents’ descriptions of Local Community formed several keywords families, with one evolving into its current state. Between 1996 and 2005, the “Tourism” and “Management-Development” Keywords Families first distinguished themselves as a cohesive unit from earlier groupings. From 2006 to 2015, the embryonic form of the “Traditional-Knowledge” Keywords Family emerged. In the period from 2016 to 2023, the “Tourism” and “Management-Development” Keywords Families further differentiated, each becoming a significant category; the “Traditional-Knowledge” Family was expanded, and the “Socio-Economic” Keywords Family made its debut. The developments within this timeframe closely mirror ICOMOS’s recognition of local communities over the last fifty years, signifying that the organization’s expression and acknowledgment of local communities from 2016 to 2023 hold a pivotal role in its historical perspective. This emphasizes ICOMOS’s sustained attention to local communities. Moreover, the discourse from 2016 to 2023, as the most recent reflection of ICOMOS’s understanding of local communities, not only underscores the emerging importance of the rural-landscape but also indicates a trend towards further refinement within the “Social-Economic” Keywords Family.

Summarizing related researches, we explore the implications of ICOMOS’s understanding of Local Community. Initially, in the 1970s, the concept of the Local Community primarily focused on spatial attributes of ICOMOS, viewed largely as a social spatial unit beyond cities and towns. From 1996 to 2005, local communities gained a more defined connotation linked to tourism and conservation, recognized as key participants in heritage preservation. The period from 2006 to 2015 saw an increased emphasis on the local character of communities, with tradition imbuing new significance to the concept of local communities. Post-2016, there has been a notable expansion in the descriptions of local communities, significantly enriching their connotation. This period marked not only an enhancement of tourism attributes but also the discovery of new social and economic facets of local communities. We employ a “three-level, four-family” keywords system to encapsulate ICOMOS’s understanding of local communities over the past fifty years, reflecting their tourism, locality, sociality, and economic attributes. ICOMOS has used the concept of Local Community to develop a wide range of insights that focus on local communities. These insights are poised to inform heritage practitioners on crucial aspects to consider in their engagement with local communities, including the potential development of heritage tourism, the exploration of traditional knowledge within these communities, and the acknowledgment of their economic rights in heritage conservation practices, among other considerations. By explaining these keywords and the connections between them, practitioners will receive more clear and direct guidance: When formulating community participation plans for heritage protection, which elements closely related to the community must be considered; when trying to protect What relevant elements cannot be ignored when considering the traditional knowledge of local communities? At the same time, our research provides a reference for current and future research on local communities to a certain extent. Looking ahead, rural attributes are expected to further enrich the connotation of local communities, with the current Social-Economic attributes poised for more detailed classification and elucidation.

This research, originating from the authoritative discourse of ICOMOS, utilizes Natural Language Processing (NLP) techniques to delve into the organization’s understanding and stance on Local Community within its discourse framework. Our research presents a comprehensive view of the authoritative understanding of ICOMOS on Local Community and, through quantitative analysis, addresses the ambiguous characterizations of Local Community found in ICOMOS discourse to some extent. We aspire that our findings may provide a unique viewpoint to some extent for community heritage conservation efforts informed by authorized heritage discourse.


  1. 1.

    LOCAL COMMUNITY is a concept used to describe a specific group of people. We can say that Local Community is a concept, or we can say that Local Community is a specific group of people; these statements are not contradictory. In this research, when emphasizing that Local Community is a concept, we use the notation ‘Local Community’. When emphasizing Local Community as the attribute of a specific group of people, we use the notation Local Community/communities. The difference between the two is subtle, but we hope that such a nuanced distinction will help readers better understand this research.

  2. 2.

    International Council on Monuments and Sites, is a global non-governmental organization associated with UNESCO. Its mission is to promote the conservation, conservation, use and enhancement of monuments, building complexes and sites.

  3. 3.

    “Local Community” here refers to the specific phrases appearing in the text of the document, not to other expressions conveying the meaning of Local Community.

  4. 4.

    A very well-known charter in the heritage conservation community, the Burra Charter has gone through several rounds of updates, with the 1979 edition and the 1988 edition below not being included on the official ICOMOS website, and the 2013 edition being included.

  5. 5.

    Convention on the Value of Cultural Heritage for Society, also known as Faro Convention, suggests that “a heritage community consists of people who value specific aspects of cultural heritage which they wish, within the framework of public action, to sustain and transmit to future generations.”

  6. 6.

    In the first section we have discovered that 1996 was the point where ICOMOS’s description of local communities changed. Since the data volume before 1996 is small and the description is not clear enough, it is treated as a whole. From then on, starting from 1996, based on the changes in data volume and description, the description after 1996 was divided into three periods with 10 years as a unit.

  7. 7.

    The code of this article is available and has been shared on the Github website ( The Integrated Development Environment used in this article is PyCharm 2022, and the Python version is Python3.9.

  8. 8.

    Unless otherwise stated, the statistics here do not include tourism charters. Since local communities arevery close to tourism charters, most of the keywords appear most frequently in tourism charters. But we prefer to discuss the non-tourism side of these keywords.

Availability of data and materials

All data generated or analyzed during this study are included in this article.


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This research is funded by: Heilongjiang Province Philosophy and Social Science Research Planning Project (No. 22SHB169). Artistic Technology Planning Project of Heilongjiang Province (No. 2003A005). Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities (Grant No. HIT.HSS.202310). Postdoctoral Funding Project of Heilongjiang Province (Grant number: LBH-Z23189). Artistic Technology Planning Project of Heilongjiang Province (Grant number: 2023B144).

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YX performed data calculations and manuscript writing; YT completed data collection and theoretical guidance; LZ provided experimental design and thesis ideas.

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Correspondence to Luchen Zhang.

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Xu, Y., Tang, Y. & Zhang, L. Exploring the connotation of “Local Community” in ICOMOS discourse: a textual analysis based on authoritative documents. Herit Sci 12, 116 (2024).

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