Arches Project

United States


Arches is a new open-source geospatial software system for cultural heritage inventory and management, developed jointly by the Getty Conservation Institute and World Monuments Fund. Arches grew out of the collaborative effort to create MEGA, the Middle Eastern Geodatabase for Antiquities, and the widespread need within the heritage field for inventories that are easy to use and access. Unlike MEGA, Arches is a generic system, and can be used without geographic restrictions. Arches has been purpose-built for the international cultural heritage field, and can be used to inventory and document buildings and other structures, cultural landscapes, heritage ensembles or districts, as well as archaeological sites. As open-source software, Arches is freely available to use and customize, without licensing or upgrade costs, and it is capable of being configured and extended to meet the needs of particular users. Arches incorporates international standards for heritage, information management, and software, leading to better practices in the creation and management of heritage data and facilitating data exchange and longevity in spite of advances in technology.

How We Helped

Development of Arches began in June 2011, building on the experience of developing and implementing MEGA. Input was sought from heritage professionals from around the world, helping to shape the requirements for the software. Based on these requirements, Arches was designed to be easily customizable while incorporating existing heritage standards, and to ensure that it is accessible and economical to use. During the development of Arches technical assistance has been provided by English Heritage and the Flanders Heritage Agency. An international open-source community has taken form around the project. The Getty Conservation Institute and World Monuments Fund intend to be two of many stakeholders that participate in this community, and will provide resources to support it in its first years of existence. For more information, as well as to join the Arches community, visit the Arches project website. Arches is open source software distributed under the GNU Affero General Public License, version 3.

Why It Matters

The need for functional heritage inventories has grown over the past few decades, together with the rise of a global awareness of the importance of heritage management. Nevertheless, inventories remain complicated to establish and maintain, and frequently rely on costly proprietary software that is often a mismatch for the needs of the heritage field. Many national and local authorities around the world are struggling to find the resources they need to face these challenges. Arches provides a common platform that is easy to use and customize, and yet one that takes advantage of the latest available technology to allow users to create and manage heritage information in all its richness and diversity. This effort brings together the unique perspective of the Getty Conservation Institute and World Monuments Fund, state-of-the-art software development, and the insights of heritage professionals from around the world.

Last updated: July 2021.

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