Free, open-source software system, designed to help safeguard cultural heritage sites worldwide, is now in use by the City of Los Angeles and by the American Schools of Oriental Research for Cultural Heritage Initiatives for Syria and Iraq
For the Getty Conservation Institute:
For World Monuments Fund:
“The Arches project represents the culmination of a decade-long effort by our two institutions to improve heritage management by creating an effective inventory system that can be deployed by any organization, anywhere in the world,” said Bonnie Burnham, President, World Monuments Fund.
Cultural heritage inventories allow authorities to make informed decisions about the management of cultural resources, including in times of crisis, aid the public in learning about places of significance in their communities, and can support activities in diverse industries, from real estate development to cultural tourism and location scouting. Prior to Arches, no modern software system was freely available to the heritage field, often leading organizations to expend scarce resources to create custom systems from scratch. Heritage organizations commonly struggle with inventory data in proprietary formats that are not compatible with other datasets and may render the data inaccessible over the long term.
To address these challenges, the Arches project combined international standards for cultural heritage practice and state-of-the-art information technology to create a powerful software system. Features include semantic data structuring, modern geospatial capabilities, and a responsive user interface for use on tablets and smartphones. Arches has also been developed as open-source software that can be customized, updated, and extended with new features by a community of implementing organizations and developers. This approach allows any qualified service provider to quickly gain familiarity with the software and offer support services.
“Arches v. 3.0 is the most advanced system of its type. It makes an array of powerful new technologies accessible for use by conservation heritage professionals for the first time ever… and at no cost. The interest shown by countries, agencies, and professionals in Arches is a testament to its currency, utility, and power,” says Tim Whalen, Director, Getty Conservation Institute.
A customization of Arches has been deployed by the City of Los Angeles. Launched in February 2015, HistoricPlacesLA, the Los Angeles Historic Resources Inventory, gives policymakers, property owners, developers, and the general public information about significant historic resources in their community.
“HistoricPlacesLA allows the City of Los Angeles, as well as developers, property owners, or other community members, easy access to information about significant cultural resources in Los Angeles. It is ultimately an essential tool to allow us to care for those resources proactively as the city evolves,” said Janet Hansen, Deputy Manager, City of Los Angeles Office of Historic Resources.
Arches is also currently in use by the ASOR Cultural Heritage Initiatives—a cooperative agreement between ASOR and the U.S. Department of State designed to document, protect, and preserve the cultural heritage of war-torn Syria and Iraq. The ASOR Cultural Heritage Initiatives make use of commercially available satellite imagery as well as on-the-ground informants to monitor and document impacts to heritage places in Syria and Iraq, and have used Arches to compile those assessments within a comprehensive inventory that includes archaeological sites, historic buildings, museums, libraries, and archives.
“Monitoring cultural heritage sites at risk in any conflict requires significant coordination and data sharing between a variety of experts in countries around the world,” said Scott Branting, Director for Mapping and Data Integration, American Schools of Oriental Research Cultural Heritage Initiatives for Syria and Iraq.” Arches provides a well crafted and freely available solution for a distributed cultural heritage project, such as the ASOR Cultural Heritage Initiatives, to share data and to coordinate experts' efforts within an online database that allows for spatial and temporal analyses of the ongoing horrific destruction.”
To develop Arches, the GCI and WMF worked with San Francisco-based Farallon Geographics, Inc., a leader in the field of geospatial services. Interest in the Arches software has come from many other fields that make use of data management and geospatial software applications, such as transportation planning and environmental tracking and monitoring. “By integrating semantic and geospatial technologies into a single, flexible software platform, Arches offers unique data management capabilities for the cultural heritage field as well as disciplines such as resource management and emergency response that need to manage, understand, and act on complex information,” said Dennis Wuthrich, CEO, Farallon Geographics, Inc.
Technical assistance and advice for Arches has been provided by Historic England (formerly English Heritage) and the Flanders Heritage Agency, both of which have played an important role during the development process.
To learn more about Arches, visit archesproject.org
To learn more about HistoricPlacesLA, visit www.historicplacesla.org
To learn more about ASOR, www.asor-syrianheritage.org
World Monuments Fund is the leading independent organization dedicated to saving the world’s most treasured places. WMF’s mission is to protect against the loss of the world’s architectural heritage, including the built environment, the artistic elements that enhance it, and the cultural traditions that it sustains. WMF builds global partnerships to conserve key cultural sites in response to urgent threats, and broadens public understanding about the central importance of heritage in our lives. WMF’s work makes historic places accessible and sustainable, builds and replenishes skills needed to care for our common heritage, and communicates the benefits of this work to the global public. Since its founding in 1965, WMF has partnered with local communities, funders, and governments at more than 600 sites in over 100 countries. www.wmf.org
The J. Paul Getty Trust is an international cultural and philanthropic institution devoted to the visual arts that includes the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Getty Research Institute, the Getty Conservation Institute, and the Getty Foundation. The J. Paul Getty Trust and Getty programs serve a varied audience from two locations: the Getty Center in Los Angeles and the Getty Villa in Malibu. www.getty.edu
The Getty Conservation Institute works internationally to advance conservation practice in the visual arts—broadly interpreted to include objects, collections, architecture, and sites. The Institute serves the conservation community through scientific research, education and training, model field projects, and the dissemination of the results of both its own work and the work of others in the field. In all its endeavors, the GCI focuses on the creation and delivery of knowledge that will benefit the professional conservation community through scientific research, education and training, model field projects, and the dissemination of the results of both its own work and the work of others in the field. In all its endeavors, the GCI focuses on the creation and delivery of knowledge that will benefit the professionals and organizations responsible for the conservation of the world's cultural heritage. www.getty.edu/conservation
Farallon Geographics, Inc., based in San Francisco, develops geospatial applications to support mission critical business functions. As systems integrators focused on geospatial data, Farallon provides strategic and technical implementation services for enterprise-scale GIS.