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Blockchain in Cultural Heritage: Insights from Literature Review

Erica Del Vacchio
1,* and
Francesco Bifulco
Department of Economics, Management, University of Naples Federico II, 80126 Napoli, Italy
Department of Humanities, University of Naples Federico II, 80133 Napoli, Italy
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Sustainability 2022, 14(4), 2324;
Submission received: 14 January 2022 / Revised: 9 February 2022 / Accepted: 14 February 2022 / Published: 18 February 2022
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Digital Heritage as Sustainable Resource for Culture and Tourism)


Cultural and creative products play an important role in helping local cultural prosperity and economic development. Today, the cultural sector presents itself as an elective field of application for the development of new investments in technologies. These investments are also facilitated by recent development programs promoted nationally with the aim of digitizing the sector using the integration between technology and artistic and cultural heritage. A review of the impact of blockchain technology in this industry is provided in this study. From this analysis, we identified three use cases of blockchain application: provenance and authenticity, tokenization and fractional equity, and rights management and digital protection. In addition, a future research agenda is developed, and new research questions are offered within three research areas: (1) expanding empirical research on the topic, (2) developing a guideline for cultural managers, and (3) analyzing the customer point of view.

1. Introduction

The digitization of cultural heritage is a topic on which various scholars [1,2,3] have focused their attention and for different aspects [4,5], from the three-dimensional digitization of works of art or archives [6,7], to ethical and regulatory aspects [8], to the enhancement and regeneration of heritage [9,10].
Today, the cultural sector presents itself as an elective field of application for the development of new investments in technologies [11]. These investments are also facilitated by recent development programs promoted nationally with the aim of modernizing the sector using the integration between technology and artistic and cultural heritage [12]. In this context, blockchain is conceptualized as a new approach that makes it possible to offer a guarantee of the provenance and authenticity of cultural heritage [2,13]. In addition, this technology is also a resource for the tokenization of digital art asset and the tracking of ownership [3].
Although this proliferation of research has the potential to significantly improve our understanding of the roles of blockchain in cultural heritage, there are several limitations in the current research. First, although researchers have investigated the influence of blockchain in cultural heritage, extant studies are fragmented and disconnected. Therefore, it is important to take inventory of the work to date through a systematic literature review and identify key research themes and developmental patterns. In doing so, we can consolidate extant knowledge and provide the main results to build further research.
The purposes of this paper are to (1) shed light on the role of blockchain, (2) evaluate systematically the theoretical and empirical development of the influence of blockchain on cultural heritage, (3) propose a comprehensive insight into the influence of blockchain on cultural heritage to identify the specific areas in critical need of further development, and (4) provide recommendations for future research aimed at developing a more integrated research agenda on the influence of blockchain on cultural heritage [13]. Our systematic literature review can help business practitioners obtain a reliable knowledge base due to the accumulation of knowledge from a different range of studies [14].
This study is organized as follows. First, we start with the presentation of the definition of blockchain and cultural heritage to better frame and limit the themes of our review. Second, we present the methodology we have decided to use with the details related to the research strategy, analysis, and evaluation of the selected studies. Third, we report the results of the review, followed by a focus showing the relationship between the different dimensions of blockchain and cultural heritage. Finally, we discuss the implications and limitations of our studies and suggest some research questions for future research direction.

2. Literature Background

Before we elaborate on our research process, it is necessary to clarify the concept of blockchain and cultural heritage.

2.1. Blockchain Technology (BT)

Several studies [15,16] agree that the history of blockchain is recognizable even before the 2008 Nakamoto white paper that popularized this technology. Already in the 1990s, the scholars Stuart Haber and W. Scott Stornetta with their work “How to Time Stamp Digital Documents” proposed a practical solution to obtain the timestamp, that is, the time stamp of digital documents that allows authenticity verification. This solution involved creating a cryptographically protected blockchain to store time-stamped documents [17]. However, this technology remains unused, and the patent expired in 2004, four years before the creation of Bitcoin.
The term blockchain, deriving from the union of the words “block” and “chain”, refers to a decentralized distributed database structured as a chain of blocks, containing transactions that are related in chronological order and whose integrity is ensured by a system of algorithms and cryptographic rules. This chain grows as new blocks are added. In this way, each transaction can take place in a decentralized way with a consequent reduction in costs and an increase in operational efficiency, eliminating intermediaries and accelerating the execution times of the transactions [18].
Therefore, blockchain technology is an immutable digital ledger, as it cannot be changed after a transaction is recorded and verified. In addition, the transaction details stored in the ledger are deposited in every node of the network, and, therefore, the modification of even a single block would imply the modification of the entire ledger. Blockchain technology is considered the digital evolution of a ledger in which all the transactions of both data and information are noted: a distributed ledger, a register composed of a “chain of blocks” of information.
Moreover, several scholars [19,20] show that there are three stages in the evolution of technology. Phase 1.0 coincides with the birth of cryptocurrencies and, above all, Bitcoin, which paved the way for the use and implementation of blockchain technology in the financial world to solve the problem of double spending and facilitate transactions between actors. Phase 2.0 concerns the evolution of the Ethereum blockchain, of the smart contact solution and Dapps (Decentralized Applications) that have made it possible to extend the scope of application of the technology beyond just the financial sector. Finally, phase 3.0 concerns the convergence of blockchain and other smart technologies (Artificial Intelligence—AI; Internet of Things—IoT).
To understand the disruptive scope of the technology, here are some features relevant to its operation:

2.1.1. Decentralization

Blockchain technology is a decentralized, peer-to-peer system. Within a decentralized network, the information and rules for operation are managed by multiple computers or nodes. Each node maintains an encrypted copy of the records, eliminating the need for centralized governance. This mechanism allows all users to check for any tampering or changes in the distributed registry [21].

2.1.2. Immutability

The transactions that take place in a blockchain are encrypted and sequentially added to the register. Transactions are stored in different nodes in the distribution network, and, therefore, it is difficult to tamper with a blockchain [20].

2.1.3. Anonymity

Users can decide to remain totally anonymous or to reveal themselves to others through a pseudonym since the only data visible in a blockchain are the addresses of the sender and recipient [22].

2.1.4. Traceability and Transparency

Transaction participants have access to the same records and can validate transactions and verify identities or ownership without the need for intermediary third parties. Transactions are time-stamped and can be verified in real time [23].
Today, it is a shared opinion among scholars and practitioners that technology can find application in different fields. Recently, many studies have emerged on agri-food [24,25] for traceability of process (from production to distribution to consumers); other studies have been conducted on the healthcare industry [26] to record health data.
Although researchers have investigated the influence of BT in cultural heritage, extant studies are fragmented and disconnected. Our study provides an inventory of the work to date and identifies key research and development patterns.

2.2. Cultural Heritage

The European Commission defines cultural heritage as “cultural and creative resources of a tangible or intangible nature, with a value for society that has been publicly recognized in order to preserve it for future generations” [27].
Attention to the protection of cultural heritage can be seen since the 15th century in the first laws for the protection of monuments and works of art. The 1954 UNESCO Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict is the first international treaty developed in response to the destruction and looting of monuments and works of art during World War II. Initially, international law relating to the protection of cultural heritage was born with limited objectives for the protection of cultural heritage in times of war [28]. To expand this treaty, in 1970, the UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership and Cultural Property was issued with the aim of preventing the illicit trafficking of goods even in times of peace. In this way, the member states agree to try to prevent the acquisition or import of illegally removed cultural heritage pieces.
Cultural heritage is an expression of the ways of life developed by a community and handed down from generation to generation, including customs, practices, places, objects, expressions, and artistic values. Cultural heritage is often expressed as intangible or tangible [29].
Therefore, cultural heritage produces tangible representations of the systems of values, beliefs, traditions, and lifestyles and contains visible and tangible traces from antiquity to the recent past [30].
Recently, several scholars [4,5] focused their attention on digital transformation related to cultural heritage. Cultural institutions are exploiting the advantages and opportunities of new technologies with the aim of achieving different purposes, from the design of new value propositions, to the involvement of consumers, to attention to improving customer experience [31].
A line of research [8] discussed the role of memory institutions with the advent of digitization. The scholars concluded that all decisions relating to the digitization of cultural heritage objects and assets that are the object of the community are made following a sustainable, transparent, and co-creation model with the community itself.
A second line of research [6,7] has studied and demonstrated techniques and approaches for the three-dimensional digitization of cultural heritage.
Recent studies [9,10], on the other hand, show how digitization can be a tool that facilitates the protection and regeneration of cultural heritage and its intrinsic values. Indeed, scholars [31] agree that the usefulness of digital technologies in the service of cultural heritage, already widely acknowledged in the field of conservation and valorization (3D modelling, virtual tours, cataloguing of assets, diagnosis of pathology problems, etc.), has been enriched by a new vision in which, rather than replacing traditional methods of conservation, valorization, and enjoyment of cultural heritage, complement, support, and improve them in order to make “cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable” ([31], pp. 55–56).
Therefore, cultural heritage also has a legacy value, that is, a value associated with the satisfaction obtained from knowing that the object is preserved for the future generations.

3. Methodology

Following our study purpose, we adopt a systematic literature review method to probe into existing scholarly articles on blockchain e-cultural heritage. Systematic literature review has been widely used in the business management field [32,33] because it facilitates the assessment of the fields of study relevant to a specific research topic.
We define our systematic literature review method with the following criteria to set search boundaries as protocol from the search strategy, as shown in Figure 1.
First, we limit our review of peer-reviewed articles to the last 29 years (1992–2021). This timeframe was deemed appropriate due to the sporadic and patchy evidence of relevant articles prior to 1992.
Second, we selected only the articles in English present in the most used databases in the management field Web of Science and Scopus [33]. Furthermore, we added Google Scholar articles and sector reports. Adapting the inclusion and exclusion criteria (see Table A1 and Table A2) used by Tian et al. [33], our search process yielded 825 articles after retrieving the search results and filtering (see Table A1).
Finally, by analyzing the titles, research results, and conclusions of these selected articles, we chose only the most relevant sources related to the field of blockchain in cultural heritage. During this stage, we identified and eliminated 61 duplicate studies.
After this process, we exported the remaining 675 retrieved studies to MS Excel documents. Then, we conducted a deep analysis of these articles following the categorization criteria from [32], where the retrieved articles were further reviewed against the inclusion and exclusion criteria (see Table A1 and Table A2) in an iterative process using keyword searches and title and abstract analysis. We have decided to adopt these categorization criteria because in this way, we identify only the relevant references that improve the identification of the relevant literature in relation to the topic of interest. Through such an iterative process involving keyword searches, title, and abstract analysis, we obtained 15 primary articles, and the full texts of these articles were found for further analysis.

4. Results

In this section, we present the results of these 15 identified academic works. Based on our systematic analysis of the articles sample, we have classified the use cases of the blockchain: tokenization, digital scarcity, provenance, and rights management. In all, almost half of the studies in our sample concern the application of technology for the certification of the provenance and authenticity of cultural works. The lowest percentage concerns the issue of rights management and protection, with only four articles in the sample.
Our results confirm that blockchain technology is primarily applied as a guarantee of the authenticity of works of art, manuscripts, and intellectual property in the cultural heritage industry [34]. Based on a systematic content analysis of the 15 empirical studies of blockchain and cultural heritage, we develop a framework and highlight the relationship between blockchain use cases and cultural heritage, as shown in Figure 2.

4.1. Provenance and Authenticity

The value of cultural heritage lies in its authenticity and quality and intangible values linked to it. These factors contribute to the uniqueness and non-reproducibility of the cultural asset. However, digitization seems to have soothed the authenticity of the culture as the copy of an asset can be edited, reproduced, and distributed at little cost [35].
Technology allows us to overcome these problems related to the authenticity and provenance of works and cultural contents [36]. As Angelova [37] suggests, blockchain can be used to create an immutable register that includes the type and category of cultural property and all the activities that are performed and authorized on assets that are considered cultural heritage. In line with what happens for the agri-food sector, even in the cultural heritage industry, blockchain can enable higher levels of security on the right of ownership of an asset, acting as a guarantee of authenticity from the origin of the creative product to the distribution to the consumer.
Therefore, as stated by Anagnostakis [38] (p. 550), the introduction of Blockchain in cultural heritage documentation will provide an invaluable, universal, and immune timeline of cultural heritage documentation records, safeguarding the validity of data and the value of tokens and facilitating in the most effective way the resolution of ownership and enhancement problems for future generations.
The loss of cultural heritage assets is a great threat to this sector. Over the years, natural disasters have affected cultural heritage, affecting not only the works but also their catalogs. Today, centralized databases or paper documents are still used for the cataloging of cultural heritage. These tools can easily be subject to falsification or cancellation. For these reasons, blockchain technology appears to be an effective tool for protecting and making digital archives of works of art secure and immutable [39].
The theme of authenticity is closely linked to that of provenance, central to the cultural heritage sector [40]. Although the blockchain cannot definitively eliminate the behavior of malicious people, at the same time, it raises the problem of proving the right of ownership of cultural assets.
As Whitaker et al. [41] (p. 33) suggest, if a blockchain database becomes a registry of title, meaning legal ownership, then the legal ownership of the work is inseparable from the blockchain provenance. Without transfer of the blockchain record, the artwork’s title does not transfer.

4.2. Tokenization and Fractional Equity

Tokenization consists of the process of converting a right on an asset (usually owned) into a token, digital information, which is then issued on a blockchain platform for its exchange between users. This business is governed by one smart contract. In the artistic field, we speak of security tokens, which are considered a financial instrument [3]. Recently, it is a common idea to link the impact of blockchain in the cultural heritage industry to the birth of the CryptoArte phenomenon [42]. In detail, the scholars Franceschet et al. [43] report the example of the SuperRare gallery and explain that when an artist uploads a work of art, it creates a transaction in the Ethereum blockchain. This transaction creates a token, uniquely associated with the work of art, and transfers it into the artist’s cryptographic wallet.
Tokenization makes the work a unique resource and permanently connected to the blockchain. In this way, the work can be subsequently exchanged, traded, or held by collectors, just as any other rare artifact can. The blockchain enables, as some scholars [34,35,36,37,38,39,40,41] suggest, a fair trade in cultural and ancient heritage. In fact, with the decoupling of property rights and the possibility of shared income, users who are geographically separated can purchase a token that represents part of the project and/or cultural asset, intensifying the enhancement of ancient assets and support for culture. Recently, scholars Ertürk et al. [44] developed Heirloom, a decentralized system that transforms cultural assets into NFTs that can be exchanged in an online marketplace. The supporters give donations to earn their share of protection and maintenance rights.

4.3. Rights Management and Protection

This category includes several articles that focus on the use of technology to make works of art ‘artificially’ scarce, allowing them to become legitimate or unique. Scholar O’Dwyer [45] shows that the concept of scarcity has changed. Indeed, if before the cultural industries limited the circulation of works of art, today, scarcity would seem not to be a threat to the value of the work; rather, the free circulation of unauthorized copies can contribute to making the asset more precious and, therefore, to increasing its financial value. Scholars have sought to explore how blockchain technologies are established to reintroduce the concepts of scarcity, authenticity, and originality, which have now ceased to make sense, into freely reproducible digital artwork.
Thanks to the use of an asymmetric encryption mechanism and the possibility of affixing an immutable digital signature on documents relating to individual works of art, the blockchain appears as a suitable tool for the digital protection of works of art [46]. The security and permanency of blockchain technology is a solution for authenticating the ownership and identity of the first original copy [35] (p. 158).
Therefore, blockchain technology can protect and manage the intellectual property of works of art, as well as the corresponding digital documentation, which is very often subject to loss and/or cancellation. In this way, the value of the works of art can be increased, as the uniqueness and rarity of the goods are objectives that can be achieved [36,37,38,39,40,41,42,43,44,45,46].
Overall, Zeilinger [47] (p. 25) agrees that attempts to tie digital art to blockchain and IP theory resemble an established tradition of trying to legitimize ownership of creative expression. However, the scholar also criticizes the use of technology, stating that the use of the blockchain and entrusting the value of works of art to the control of algorithmic units can facilitate the financialization of digital art and at the same time limit the art agency, the rights of creators, and control over their work.

5. Discussion

Our results make it possible to bridge the gap in the literature, offering a state-of-the-art snapshot of the impact of blockchain technology in the cultural heritage sector. By performing a systematic review of the literature, our study has integrated fragmented and disconnected studies so far. Our results reveal that there are significant influences of blockchain technology on the context of cultural heritage and that the different characteristics of the technology (immutability, security, cryptography, etc.) have effects on cultural heritage. We have also discovered that the influence of technology on cultural heritage opens different opinions among scholars, showing that the influence is varied and that it is in the early stages of its evolution. By applying the systematic review of the literature, we were able to identify research gaps, challenges, and opportunities for future studies.
First, our findings reveal that studies dealing with the topic of blockchain in the cultural heritage industry are primarily conceptual studies. Until now, there has been no in-depth empirical research that verifies, affirms, and expands the theoretical results that emerged from previous studies. Moreover, most of the results of the studies of our collection are limited to a point of view relating to the positive or negative impact of the blockchain on cultural heritage without delving into the real logic underlying the application of this technology for this category of goods. For example, [45,46] concluded that blockchain has a positive impact on the digital protection of cultural heritage and its related documentation, but they ignored the short-term positive impact on the work of cultural operators and/or on the end customer experience/engagement.
Although we have tried to fully cover the relationship between blockchain and cultural heritage, the restriction of our research on keywords, titles, and abstracts may have led us to lose some studies on the subject. Furthermore, we demonstrate that the application of technology to support the cultural context produces both positive and negative effects, but, given the scope of our research, we cannot carry out a more in-depth study of these effects, thus opening opportunities for future research.

6. Theoretical and Managerial Implications

Although our work and results are preliminary, we identify several theoretical and managerial implications.
For academics, our results confirm that blockchain technology can find applications in different business sectors, as the literature suggests [25,26]. The use of blockchain technology in the cultural heritage sector allows the development of new value propositions for consumers, a significant factor for recent scholars [5]. This is in line with the most recent studies in the cultural sector, which show how technological development and the introduction of new innovative tools are changing not only the way people experience cultural heritage but also how cultural companies themselves are reorganizing their value propositions [5].
Blockchain appears to be an effective tool for responding to the needs for the protection and regeneration of cultural heritage, as suggested by the most recent studies on the subject [9,10]. A topic that appears to be particularly ‘urgent’ for scholars is the need to safeguard the tangible and intangible cultural heritage from the changes of the times. Blockchain can respond to this urgency by recording digital copies and related documentation in a distributed archive in an immutable and transparent manner. This feature of the technology safeguards works of art and related documents from loss, damage, and neglect.
In a highly digitized and connected world, the importance of adopting a sustainable mechanism like this cannot be ignored. The blockchain not only gives works of art uniqueness and rarity but opens up opportunities for the emergence of digital copies of works by marginalized artists, ensuring their protection for future generations [35].
Our review shows that blockchain in the culture industry can open new business opportunities and the building of business models that go beyond traditional characteristics. As O’Dwyer suggests [45], blockchain is able to create three different types of business models: (1) new financing and fractional equity models, (2) tokenization and monetization of data, and (3) the use of blockchain technology to create limited-edition markets and protect original copies.
This study has important implications for managers and professionals for a deeper understanding of blockchain applications in the field of cultural heritage. In this context, the blockchain is already generating several paradigm-breaking effects on cultural heritage management processes. For example, blockchains are reshaping the concept of authenticity by improving the tracking of the provenance of works of art and their owners. Consequently, real-time visibility can be considered an important advantage for the enhancement of cultural heritage.
Indeed, blockchain leads to new business opportunities but also to disadvantages and challenges to be faced. Managers should consider both the positive and negative aspects and try to find a balance between both types of effects, thus improving the efficiency and effectiveness of using this technology for the provision of new cultural services.
Another feature linked to blockchain is contribution to decentralized operations, as observed for the sale of digital cultural goods, in which there is no intermediary that regulates the transaction between seller and buyer, as occurs in traditional auctions. as they are executed through smart contracts and token transfer.
Furthermore, the blockchain will increase the uniqueness of the cultural heritage artifacts they are applied to and the way collectors will be remunerated in real time and will create the possibility of exchanging cultural assets without third party intermediaries, as is usually the case, with the consequent reduction in time, costs, and loss and/or registration of the documentation relating to the individual works.
Therefore, based on the main findings, cultural industry professionals will be challenged to rethink their strategies for incorporating blockchain into their activities. The development of technology forces curators and cultural operators to rethink their business and cultural heritage management strategies in order to offer new services, new collaborations, etc.

7. Limitations and Future Research

Our work is not free from methodological limitations that provide the foundation for future research. These limitations can be seen in the choices we have made regarding the review process of our study. We have not included studies published prior to 1992 and collected sources using only Web of Science, Scopus, Google Scholar, and industry reports.
However, we have been continuously monitoring citations to reduce these limits. Future studies may be able to overcome the limitations of our study by using a different methodology (e.g., multiple case studies, fsQCA or action research to obtain a broader overview of the phenomenon). We are aware of these methodological limitations, and as researchers, we have evaluated them against our methodological choices to present a systematic review of the literature.
We identify the basis for future research lines to advance this field of study within three research areas:
Expand empirical research on the topic.
Develop a guideline for cultural managers.
Analyze the customer point of view.

7.1. Expand Empirical Research on the Topic

Although there are articles that present the development of blockchain architectures and Dapps to support the protection of cultural assets or for the transformation of cultural assets into NFTs to be sold on the market, there is not still an empirical study that explores these aspects through an in-depth analysis of a specific cultural context (museum, archaeological, etc.) and over a medium/long period of time.
Future research could extend the results of our systematic literature review and identify how and for what blockchain is used. The results of these future studies could confirm the categories that emerged from our review (Figure 2) or extend them with new categories and, therefore, applications of the technology. The studies in the literature that address the issue of blockchain in the cultural heritage sector with an empirical perspective and/or an analysis of an actual case study are very scarce.
We believe that the use of a multiple case study methodology can be useful for studying the complexity of the phenomenon. Carrying out semi-structured interviews with cultural managers could help researchers understand the existence of any limitations that we currently ignore and that prevent the adoption of technology in many cultural enterprises yet. Furthermore, we believe that the use of recent methodologies, such as the fsQCA, allows for the extraction of real empirical evidence from the raw data, and this allows the researcher to stimulate the development of further qualitative explorations. Indeed, fsQCA possesses the sensitivity to evaluate the combinatorial effects of various aspects for which other methodologies do not allow evaluation. Moreover, it is suitable for use also in small datasets and, therefore, when the available data are few.
The future research questions we suggest are as follows:
  • Which features of the blockchain can be combined, through the fsQCA (Fuzzy-set Qualitative Comparative Analysis) methodology to achieve value creation in the cultural context?
  • Using an action research and researcher–professional collaboration approach, what are the effects of using blockchain on the work of cultural managers in terms of efficiency, reskilling, and upskilling?
  • Through the multiple case study methodology, what are the effects of using technology on cultural heritage in terms of processes, relationships, and institutions?

7.2. Develop a Guideline for Cultural Managers

Blockchain technology is a disruptive technology for entire business sectors. Its application in the context of cultural heritage is still in its early stages. It is no coincidence that the articles in our collection relating to this theme date back to the years 2018–2021. For these reasons, guidelines and good practices necessary for cultural managers for its implementation have not yet been developed, not only from a technological point of view but also from a business and managerial point of view. Our analysis shows that there are no contributions that offer clarification on how and if the work and procedures that guide the activities of the actors involved in the management of cultural heritage (operators, collectors, curators) have changed. All technological revolutions have brought with them a paradigm shift in terms of approach, working methodology, and organization. Additionally, some technologies have struggled to develop precisely due to internal resistance within companies. Our review shows that there are no studies at the moment that clarify what impact the introduction of the blockchain has had on the strategies of cultural enterprises and how and if the organizational model has changed. Future studies could focus attention by bridging these gaps and trying to develop guidelines and procedures for cultural managers who intend to adopt a blockchain-based innovation path.
The future research questions we suggest are as follows:
  • What managerial and business strategies should cultural managers follow for the implementation of blockchain technology to support and protect the cultural heritage they manage?
  • What tools do cultural institutions need to manage blockchain-based service delivery procedures?
  • What strategies can be pursued to educate employees in the development of this technology and in the formation of a multidisciplinary team?

7.3. Analyze the Customer Point of View

Most of the articles in our collection have focused on the development of a blockchain solution or on a conceptual analysis of this phenomenon without investigating the point of view of the consumer. As blockchain is primarily a business technology, few articles have investigated the effect of blockchain on cultural managers and their work and no one article, we can say, has analyzed how these effects impact end-user perceptions. In addition, this attention to the consumer is also important to shaping the cultural offer that meets his needs and that can increase his level of loyalty. Most of the studies in our collection analyze the impact of blockchain in the cultural sector with a managerial/business slant. We believe it is essential, even if blockchain is a business technology, to listen to the point of view of the final consumer. We suggest that future studies analyze what the views of the end user are toward the service provided by the cultural enterprise and whether they have understood the importance of this technology. In particular, we believe it is important to know if the use of this technology reassures the final consumer (for example, in the purchase of original works of art) and increases the level of loyalty/retention. Our results show that the NFT and CryptoArte phenomena have recently arisen; these phenomena have also allowed non-habitual artists to sell their works in the form of digital tokens, transforming the opportunity for exchanging and selling works into an occasion that we almost define as a game. We suggest an in-depth study of this phenomenon and a detailed analysis of how consumers interpret this new form of art (e.g., if they feel frightened by this new way of purchasing works) using traditional acceptance models (e.g., TAM).
The future research questions we suggest are as follows:
  • How and with what effects do consumers perceive a blockchain-based service?
  • Are there positive links between the use of blockchain in cultural heritage and consumer loyalty?
  • Have the values of authenticity and safety increased for consumers? If so, have these aspects been drivers that have encouraged loyalty?

Author Contributions

All authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.


This research received no external funding.

Institutional Review Board Statement

Not applicable.

Informed Consent Statement

Not applicable.

Data Availability Statement

The study did not report any data.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Appendix A

Table A1. Inclusion Criteria.
Table A1. Inclusion Criteria.
Specific SectorExamine how blockchain influences cultural heritage industry sector
All AgesOrganizations of differing stages of development\demise
Empirical StudiesCapture all empirical evidence
Theoretical PapersProvide the working assumptions and conceptual underpinnings used in research
Table A2. Exclusion Criteria.
Table A2. Exclusion Criteria.
CriteriaReason for exclusion
Pre-1992 ArticlesThe majority of databases does not contain earlier papers
EducationThis does not refer to the management of business organizations
Foreign LanguageExclude articles not written in english because scholars were not multi-lingual
Art and MusicThis does not refer to business management
Crime and LawThis does not refer to business management
LinguisticThis does not refer to business management
PhilantrophyThis does not refer to business management
PoliticsThis does not refer to business management
Individual PsychologyThis does not refer to business management
Sociology and AnthropologyThis does not refer to business management
Environment ProtectionThis does not refer to business management
Medical and HealthcareThis does not refer to business management


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Figure 1. Research process. source: our elaboration.
Figure 1. Research process. source: our elaboration.
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Figure 2. Key Themes. Source: Our elaboration.
Figure 2. Key Themes. Source: Our elaboration.
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Vacchio, E.D.; Bifulco, F. Blockchain in Cultural Heritage: Insights from Literature Review. Sustainability 2022, 14, 2324.

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Vacchio ED, Bifulco F. Blockchain in Cultural Heritage: Insights from Literature Review. Sustainability. 2022; 14(4):2324.

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Vacchio, Erica Del, and Francesco Bifulco. 2022. "Blockchain in Cultural Heritage: Insights from Literature Review" Sustainability 14, no. 4: 2324.

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