Arches V1.0 released - open-source geospatial system for cultural heritage inventory management
By Farallon Geographics Team on December 04, 2013
The Getty Conservation Institute, World Monuments Fund and Farallon Geographics are excited to announce the release of version 1.0 of Arches, a modern, user-friendly, open source information system created to help organizations inventory and manage heritage places of all types.
For those seeing Arches for the first time, the clean and elegant Arches interface might seem a bit simple on the surface. However, looks can be deceiving. Arches is a solution that is both applicable and relevant to a broad spectrum of heritage organizations all over the world, while also incorporating complex functions such as elastic search and built-in mechanisms to enforce data standards. For example, the incorporation of the CIDOC Conceptual Reference Model (CRM) enables powerfully effective searches within, as well as between, data sets. It also facilitates data migration to newer systems and aids in the preservation of data over time.
For more information about Arches, read the feature article: “CHANGING THE HERITAGE” (pdf).
The focus now is to build and expand the Arches community to ensure that the system grows and reaches its full potential. You can be a part of Arches’ open source development by sharing your feedback and questions on the Arches community forum, spreading the word throughout the heritage community, making contributions to the Arches code, and/or thinking of other ways to become involved.
Visit The Arches web site to get involved and learn more.
See Arches 1.0 press release for a general overview.
Highlights from the Arches Cultural Heritage Workshop in London
By Rob Gaston on August 20, 2013
I recently returned from the Arches workshop in London that we helped the Getty Conservation Institute and World Monuments Fund conduct. The workshop was very well received, so I want to relate some of what we covered and general observations.
What is Arches?
If you are not already familiar, Arches is an open source, geospatial asset management system specifically tailored to the needs of the international cultural heritage field. It can inventory and document all types of immovable heritage, including buildings and other structures, cultural landscapes, heritage ensembles or districts, as well as archaeological sites. The project is a collaboration between the Getty Conservation Institute, World Monuments Fund and Farallon Geographics and updates and enhances our earlier work developing MEGA-Jordan.
About the Arches workshop
The workshop consisted of 3 primary areas of focus:
- An introduction to Arches, how it works, and what makes it unique (e.g., open source, semantic framework, interoperability with other systems, OGC standards-based, HTML5 implementation, etc.)
- Demos of the application and an opportunity for attendees to get some hands-on time to explore the software and give feedback
- Discussions of how interested cultural heritage experts and organizations, will implement and can begin contributing to Arches both as a technical and business solution for their data management needs. There was also a strong focus on ways to contribute to an open source project.
How the workshop was received
The overarching purpose of the workshop was to jump-start a community around the Arches project and invite experts to join that community. Towards this end, the workshop was very successful. Many attendees have already followed up with feedback and questions on how to implement the free open source application code download.
Specific use cases by attendees range from managing an existing inventory of data for use in a research project, collecting heritage data in the field as part of a research project, to storing and managing large warehouses of cultural heritage data for heritage management organizations.
Feedback on the user interface was consistently positive. Users commented about the simple and intuitive nature of the Arches management workflows and how they conceal the relative complexity of the data being managed. We of course got a lot of suggestions for further improvements and refinements!
The next workshop will be in September in Strasbourg, France. This will be help attendees to better understand the system in order to potentially set up their own Arches implementation. If you are interested in being attending this event, you can register at cipa2013.org/.
eCatch spatial fisheries mapping application gets UI enhancements
By Alexei Peters on July 22, 2013
eCatch is a tool from The Nature Conservancy (TNC) that addresses one of the most difficult aspects of fisheries management: the collection of good fish location data to allow for in-season adaptive management. eCatch addresses this problem using a web-based app for crowd-sourced collection, mapping and sharing of fishing data.
Using eCatch on an iPad, fisherman at sea, report areas where they catch overfished species and learn from other fisherman where the more abundant species are. By collaborating and sharing their fishing logbooks in real-time, fisherman can help:
- visualize collective spatial patterns in fishing
- minimize by-catch of depleted species
- develop by-catch avoidance predictive maps that correlate spatial fisheries data with oceanography variables
Farallon worked with TNC to develop eCatch v1.0 and v2.0 using industry standard and open source technologies for geospatial data access/reporting as well as mapping. Our web team currently works to maintain and further enhance the eCatch 2.0 UI and mapping technology.
Integrating GIS with the semantic web for cultural heritage
By Farallon Geographics Team on April 24, 2013
The SemanticWeb.com has published The Arches Project Puts A Semantic And Geo-Spatial Spin On Cultural Heritage which describes how the Arches project, a collaboration between the Getty Conservation Institute, World Monuments Fund and Farallon Geographics delivers a semantic geospatial solution for cultural heritage management.
Arches grew out of earlier work to develop MEGA-Jordan, a purpose-built GIS to inventory and manage archaeology sites at a national level for that country. Arches was designed to be more flexible, able to accommodate any country or immovable cultural heritage institution. It was also designed to be more than a GIS and inventory management system.
The Semantic Web for Cultural Heritage
Currently, many archives, libraries, museums, and other cultural heritage institutions make use of the CIDOC Conceptual Reference Model, an information standard that provides a common and extensible semantic framework describing collections and related business entities. The CIDOC CRM defines a common language and conceptual framework for domain experts and implementers. The use of a semantic framework greatly enhances accessibility to cultural heritage information, speeds integration of multiple databases and improves sharing between organizations. Importantly it also works with existing relational databases and aligns with web services.
Arches was designed to integrate the CIDOC CRM. Whereas GIS defines where something is, the CIDOC CRM represents the "who, what and when" in a machine readable form. (Machine readable is key here, because it means that the data definition must provide meaning and context so that a computer can understand the information rather than require a human to interpret it.)
In a semantic data model an entity type might be a heritage artifact, which provides an elementary category that can be easily understood. In a relational model, in contrast, you might end up with a number of different tables such as materials and techniques, designations, descriptions, etc. Each of these things represents part of what makes up the artifact, but with a semantic data model the artifact is the whole entity and its relationships rather than breaking it down into parts.
Integrating GIS with a semantic framework for cultural heritage
By integrating GIS with the semantic framework for cultural heritage, Arches breaks new ground and enables the system to make connections between cultural heritage objects that might otherwise go unobserved. Since the solution is extensible, it also means the system can continually evolve.
From the SematicWeb.com article:
"We realized early on that to do this right, we weren't going to be able to do it by defining a bunch of traditional database tables and filling them up with data," says CEO Dennis Wuthrich. "We needed to think about building an app on the ontology that let people define the kinds of things they wanted to track and the relationships between the attributes of things." With the help of the English Heritage and the Flanders Heritage Agency, which were familiar with the ontology and had the domain expertise, Farallon developed a graph database that represents the relationship of a site to its name, period, location, actors, activities, architectural heritage, and so on. It's now building the forms necessary for persons to create and manage that information.
So, if you have a building, for example, there is a semantically defined way of associating a name or set of names with it, and a semantically meaningful way of associating a suite of materials the building might be made up from, its cultural periods, its location and the various ways you can define it (geospatially or relative to its address or an administrative area). "Basically, you have a system that knows how to track these semantic relationships and how to map between something like a physical feature in the field and the data elements defined as the necessary suite of information to manage these cultural artifacts.