In recent years, it has become increasingly clear that public heritage preservation and interpretation can play a constructive role in the social evolution of nations, regions, and local communities.
As noted by the World Bank in its Framework for Action for Cultural Heritage and Development: "all development interventions intrinsically involve cultural and social dimensions that must be taken into account... the key question is no longer a conceptual one-whether culture matters-but a strategic and operational one: refining the means for making culture part of the purposive inducement of development, thus increasing the cultural sustainability of development and its economic effectiveness."
While research and rigorous, empirical, humanistic study of the past is and will always remain the foundation of heritage activities, a change to a more holistic vision of the material remains of the past is surely coming. And it will demand both international cooperation and a far-reaching interdisciplinary approach.
Indeed, in the coming years the issues of cultural heritage, social identity, and collective memory will all become serious elements of larger social programs. Consequently, there will be a growing need for American professionals who are soundly educated both in the historiographical disciplines and in the important contemporary aspects of heritage such as economics, sociology, urban planning, and community affairs.