The idea of national treasure, like national epics and national anthems, is part of the language of romantic nationalism, which arose in the late 18th century and 19th centuries. Nationalism is an ideology which supports the nation as the fundamental unit of human social life, which includes shared language, values and culture. Thus national treasure, part of the ideology of nationalism, is shared culture.
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A national treasure can be a shared cultural asset, which may or may not have monetary value; for example, a skilled banjo player would be a Living National Treasure. Or it may refer to a rare cultural object, such as the medieval manuscript Plan of St. Gall in Switzerland. The government of Japan designates the most famous of the nation's cultural properties as National Treasures of Japan. The National Treasures of Korea are a set of artifacts, sites, and buildings which are recognised by South Korea as having exceptional cultural value.
Notable national treasures
There are thousands of national treasures around the world. Listed here are samples of the different types of things that can be national treasure:
Examples of people who have been described as national treasures include the following:
- Certain countries officially designate individuals or groups as Living National Treasures. See, for example, Living National Treasures of Japan.
- American actress, comedian, television presenter and producer Betty White, who has been working in television since 1939, is often referred to as a national treasure in the United States.
- Comedian, actor, author and director Stephen Fry, broadcaster and naturalist Sir David Attenborough, and racing driver Stirling Moss have in several high-brow non-industry-specific publications been referred to as national treasures of the United Kingdom.
- After the Brazil national football team won the 1962 FIFA World Cup, wealthy European clubs offered massive fees to sign their young star player, Pelé, but the government of Brazil declared him an official national treasure to prevent him from being transferred out of the country.
- The late German humorist Vicco von Bülow alias Loriot had the status of a national treasure in Germany.
In 2013 the British satirical magazine Private Eye began running a column poking fun at an exponential increase in references in the press to "national treasures".
- The Fairy Queen locomotive in India.
- The Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights for the United States.
- Stonehenge and Magna Carta in the United Kingdom. The National Treasure for Public Life is called The Magna Carta Award.
- Rose, Rebecca "Burt". "Watch Captain America Help Walk National Treasure Betty White on Stage". Jezebel.
- staff, Standard-Examiner. "Betty White's 93rd birthday flash mob surprise". Standard-Examiner.
- "Stirling Moss at 80: the interview". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 21 April 2013.
- Fordham, Mike (21 October 2009). "Sir Stirling Moss: The Knight of the Road". Influx Magazine. Retrieved 21 April 2013.
- "Sir Stirling Moss: Still Stirling stuff". The Independent. 27 November 2007. Retrieved 21 April 2013.
- Stephen Fry gives some Quite Interesting answers The Daily Telegraph (London), 29 February 2008
- Waldemayer, Winston (28 January 2009). "Short Sharp Science: Eye-burrowing worms, national treasures... and creationism". Newscientist.com. Retrieved 21 April 2013.
- Kendall, Paul (31 January 2009). "Sir David Attenborough: 'Man was given permission to exploit the natural world by the Bible'". The Daily Telegraph.
- "Margaret Thatcher, Richard Branson and Judi Dench picked as National Treasures". The Daily Telegraph. 18 September 2008.
- "Pelé (Edson Arantes do Nascimento) The King of football". FIFA.com. Retrieved 8 February 2011.
- "Germany mourns king of comedy Loriot". The Guardian. 24 August 2011. Retrieved 15 February 2014.
- For example, Private Eye no. 1340 (17–30 May 2013), "National Treasures", p. 13, contains excerpts from newspaper reports which attach the status to Olivia Colman, Clare Balding, Graham Norton and (formerly) Stuart Hall.
- "National Treasure for Public Life: The Magna Carta Award". Telegraph.
- Grateful Dead: The Illustrated Trip. Jake Woodward, et al. Dorling Kindersley Limited, 2003, pg. 112.
- "'National treasure' Andy Williams dies of bladder cancer at age 84", Fox News, 26 September 2012