What is Arches?

Arches is a web framework for Django and is designed to make it easier to build applications that need:

  • Geospatial data management and geoprocessing like a GIS (Geograhic Information System) offers, but with a much more flexible approach for modeling the geometries associated with a resource.
  • the ability to import arbitrary data schema in the form of graphs as a means of defining the set of attributes that describe data resources
  • an Ontology as a means of formally naming and defining data types, properties, and the relationships between the data entities that describe a resource.
  • Thesauri to manage the controlled vocabularies needed to describe and index information in a consistent and uniform way.

Arches manages data “resources”. Resources can represent almost anything you want: physical things (such as a cultural heritage object), temporal things (such as activities or events), actors (such as a person or organization), or conceptual objects (such as an image. document, or other information carrier).

Resources are defined as directed graphs (nodes connected by edges). Nodes in the graph are used to represent the attributes (or collection of attributes) of a resource and edges define the type of relationship between attributes. In practice, a resource graph in Arches functions much like a schema does in a relational database.

Arches provides core services for creating, reading, updating, and deleting resources. Because resources are defined as graphs, Arches provides the services needed to import and parse resource graphs, as well the ability to create and interact with instance graphs (e.g.: an instance of a resource graph).

To promote consistent data creation, update, and indexing workflows, Arches implements a Reference Data Manager (RDM) that can manage thesauri. The RDM allows users with the appropriate privileges to update thesaurus entries in a manner compliant with SKOS (http://www.w3.org/2004/02/skos/) and assign the concepts within a thesaurus with data entry forms.

Arches’ User and Developer forum: http://archesproject.org/forum/

Version History

v3.0 April, 2015: Updated architecture, inclusion of the Reference Data Manager, updated dependencies (ElasticSearch, OpenLayers, Knockout)

v2.0 March, 2014: Improved upload of digital files, assorted bug fixes

v1.0 October, 2013: Initial Release


Arches is free software and is licensed under the terms of the GNU Affero General Public License (http://www.gnu.org/licenses/agpl-3.0.html)

Who is Arches for?

Arches is primarily intended for software developers who need to build flexible and responsive web applications, and who wish to hide the complexities of ontologies, thesauri, and geospatial data management from their users.

The Arches framework is largely invisible to end users; Arches applications are responsible for defining resource graphs and implementing data entry, data presentation, and data reporting workflows.

One major exception to this rule is the Reference Data Manager (RDM). The RDM is a core component of the Arches framework and can support the creation and curation of thesauri without the need to implement an Arches application.