Heirlooms help people in families remember their history and the people who made it.
Some of the interesting things that were handed down to me are my mother's high school yearbook and my grandmother's hand painted salt and pepper shakers.
I've also saved toys and books from my own childhood, shared them with my kids, and now they're available for my grandchildren.
While some heirlooms may be too valuable or fragile to use, it seems wasteful to keep most of them tucked away for protection. If the platter my great aunt painted gets broken someday I'm sure she'd rather have that happen than for it to remain hidden and unused. And my mother would be pleased to see me actually wearing the costume jewelry that reminds me of her.
I believe some things exist for purely practical reasons, but many others are here to be appreciated for their beauty, and because they remind us of people we love.