Creating a glossary of terms

Published: 15 July 2021
Last edited: 15 July 2021

The multidisciplinary approach taken by Connecting Practice, with its use of representatives from both natural and cultural heritage organisations, as well as local and international partners, has highlighted the differences in interpretation and understanding of applicable terminology and concepts. In many situations, seemingly similar concepts have accumulated slightly different meanings depending on their context. The terminology and concepts used in one disciplinary realm have different meanings in others or, conversely, distinct terms or notions in one realm play a similar function in another. The application of multiple vocabularies can lead to confusion and misunderstanding that can hinder mutual use across disciplines.

Establishing a common ground for terminology was identified as being helpful for the integration of concepts and practices to ensure collective use and understanding. In order to address this need, the Commentary on Nature-Culture Keywords emerged as a result of the work done in Connecting Practice. It is a compilation of terms and concepts divided into three clusters (biocultural approaches, resilience and traditional knowledge), with the goal of creating common understanding and collective use to assist future project activities.


Education, training and other capacity development activities
Scale of implementation
Phase of solution
Documentation and dissemination of results

Enabling factors

This building block required the identification and limitation of keywords to a few distinct terms for research which were then grouped into thematic ‘clusters’. This provided an effective way of highlighting connections and overlaps. Investigation of the concepts’ origins and meanings, and their use in different areas of study, assisted in a better understanding of their complexities. As a ‘work in progress’, the Commentary provides flexibility and openness to modification, supplementation and expansion, which is important to its success.

Lessons learned

The Commentary was compiled with the goal of creating a usable glossary of commonly understood terms and concepts for future work. The challenge of creating this was twofold: while these terms are multidisciplinary, evolving and involve complex processes for heritage globally, the document must dissect layers of meanings and terms sufficiently to assist professionals in conceptual aspects of heritage work. The Commentary identifies the many facets of the analysed terms, and potential consequences arising from uninformed use in the heritage field. By developing a preliminary basis on the meaning and origins of these terms, the Commentary aims to create a clearer exchange across disciplines and professionals. As an ‘open’ and ‘intermediate’ document, it will be enriched by additional references and terminologies, and expanded as new words and concepts are explored.

Connecting Practice acknowledges there are limitations, particularly regarding language, as only sources in English were consulted, limiting the range of terms and meanings that other languages may provide.

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