Newly Released Software Aims to Improve Heritage Management Worldwide

Earlier this month, World Monuments Fund and the Getty Conservation Institute announced the completion and release of Arches, a software system that has been developed to provide a solution for compiling and maintaining inventories of immovable cultural heritage. The software has been in development since 2011, as a joint effort that grew out of the enthusiastic international response to MEGA, the Middle Eastern Geodatabase for Antiquities, and the persistent need for database software that fits the needs of the heritage field without requiring outsize investment of time and resources.

As open-source software, Arches is available to download and use without a fee, and can be freely modified by adopters, who are in turn required to make their changes to the code available under the same terms. While Arches allows users to record information about the location, classification, condition, and many other characteristics of heritage sites, adopters will be able to customize the software to record information specific to their own business needs, while still adhering to an international standard. Adopters, from heritage agencies and non-governmental organizations to universities and individual researchers, are now forming a budding online community centered on use of the software. WMF and its partner the Getty Conservation Institute are committed to supporting the software and the community until it becomes self-sustaining.

Arches represents a unique initiative undertaken for the benefit of the cultural heritage field at large, with the long-term goal of improving heritage management worldwide. Aside from providing ease of use and reliability, Arches addresses problems that have plagued the heritage field for a long time: the dearth of standardization in recording information about sites, the long-term loss of data due to technological obsolescence, and the challenge of sharing adequate information with stakeholders in time to mitigate risks to heritage. Arches has been designed to incorporate international standards for heritage information, in order to promote long-term preservation and interoperability of the datasets that are created using the software. It combines state-of-the-art software development with the insights of many heritage professionals from around the world.