Each country has its own national heritage list and naming conventions. Sites can be added to a list, and are occasionally removed and even destroyed for economic or other reasons. The concept of protecting and taking pride in cultural heritage is something that goes back to the Seven Wonders of the World, but usually it is only after destruction, especially mass destruction in times of war, that new lists are drawn up or revisited. Many countries acknowledge under UNESCO their designation of objects considered to be worthy of having importance to the entire world or world heritage. These listings also acknowledge the need for a separate list of objects judged part of their own unique cultural heritage. The concept of a national heritage site can be split into many types, each type having its own unique list.

Two major types of cultural heritage are "immoveable" and "moveable" objects. Immoveable objects are usually buildings, locations such as gardens or areas such as city districts. Small moveable objects may include old books or artworks, large moveable objects may include automobiles, aircraft and ships.

In the case of a national heritage site in a populated area, monitoring and protection may be under the jurisdiction of a fire department or local police department, whereas more remote sites may be under the protection of a central conservation agency.