UNESCO since the 1970s has debated the best way to support and preserve cultural heritage forms. Masterpieces of Oral and Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity were declared from 2001 until 2006, when the new Intangible Cultural Heritage convention replaced that program. Japan provided models and leadership for the masterpieces program. New thinking in museum practice, interest in finding ways to value performing arts as much as geographical or architectural monuments, and hopes for safeguarding and giving communities ownership of genres concerned were involved in the evolution from the masterpieces model to the Intangible Cultural Heritage model. The needs of Southeast Asian groups and their ownership of the process are queried.