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Information Technology Overview

Arches is a web application that allows organizations to view, create, edit, and query data to improve the preservation and conservation of immovable cultural heritage. Using open, international standards, Arches allows users to create data inventories that describe the type (or types), spatial location and extent, cultural period (or periods), and material (or materials) of heritage assets.

Arches has been developed using Python, a widely adopted and powerful open source programming language, and Javascript. Arches uses the PostGIS open source database to store heritage data, and it follows the MVC (Model, View, Controller) application architecture pattern to promote code reusability and modularity. Because spatial data are particularly important in the conservation of cultural heritage assets, Arches uses GIS technology to ensure that the location of heritage assets is a core data component of an asset record.

Arches includes the following components:

PostGIS, an open source database capable of managing geospatial data and implementing GIS processing tasks

ElasticSearch, a flexible and powerful open source, distributed, real-time search and analytics engine

ExtJS, a pure JavaScript library that supports the ability to create rich and dynamic, as well as cross-browser compatible, web applications

OpenLayers, a pure JavaScript library that supports use of Google, Microsoft, ESRI, OpenStreetMap, and custom GIS mapping layers

Arches employs established open source software and open data standards. The system is also designed to access and process geospatial data based on the standards and specifications published by the Open Geospatial Consortium. These include specifications for data encoding, system integration interfaces such as WMS (Web Map Service), WFS (Web Feature Service), and WCS (Web Coverage Service), data visualization encodings such as KML (Keyhole Markup Language), as well as emerging standards, including Tilecaching standards, geoJSON, and REST interfaces. Compliance with OGC standards will ensure that Arches is compatible with other desktop GIS applications, like ESRI ArcGIS, Google Earth, and Quantum GIS, common web browsers, and online satellite imagery and map services (e.g., OpenStreetMap, Google, Microsoft). Arches will implement Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) providing modern and standards-based methods for integrating multiple information management systems.

Arches also implements the CIDOC CRM ontology to promote data interoperability between information management systems. Controlled vocabularies are managed using thesauri and authority files to ensure that users of Arches employ the same concepts when interacting with cultural heritage data, even though they may use different terminology.

Arches is open source software distributed under the GNU Affero General Public License, version 3. The Arches repository is accessible on Bitbucket, and the Arches Roadmap outlines future development plans and releases.