Knowledge Integration

Development of an Arches plugin for QGIS

The Arches open-source software was designed for the cultural heritage sector and as such is centred around spatial data, including essential geospatial tools to enter, visualise and query resource locations.

Despite such tools, Arches is not a Geographic Information System (GIS), but a piece of software designed for the input, display and analysis of spatial data, though it should have the capability to integrate with them to promote an uninterrupted workflow.

The integration of Arches and ESRI’s ArcGIS Pro was a key requirement for Historic England and the Greater London Historic Environment Record. The ArcGIS Pro plugin for Arches was developed in a collaboration with Historic England and Farallon Geographics. Combined with the use of spatial views, an Arches feature to export all resources with a certain geojson-feature-collection node as a Postgresql spatial table, the plugin can be used to create new Arches resources or edit existing ones with the geometry layers that exist in an ArcGIS Pro project. 

Due to the proprietary nature of the ArcGIS software, many establishments opt for the open-source, community driven QGIS software instead. Though it might lack some of the features and professionalism ArcGIS Pro has to offer, QGIS is a free alternative with more flexibility and customisation on offer; not only because the source code can be edited to fit a user’s needs, but also because of the abundance of community plugins that exist. 

The request for a QGIS plugin has been a topic of discussion for a number of years within the Arches community. In September of 2023, we began to flesh out an idea for an Arches plugin for QGIS for the UK User Group. However, upon its postponement, decided to continue progressing with the project. By the announcement of the rearranged user group, the plugin had made a great amount of progress. It was presented by Knowledge Integration’s Arches lead, Samuel Scandrett, and the video can be found on the Arches Project YouTube channel. In March, the plugin will be presented again at the Arches developer meetings hosted in Los Angeles.

The plugin connects to an Arches project via an Oauth2 token, and requires an Arches user with the permissions for resource creation. Once connected, a user can create new Arches resources by choosing the QGIS layer and Arches resource model. Alternatively, using the spatial view layer, an existing Arches resource can be selected for its geometry to be overwritten or appended to. 

An image of the Arches plugin open in QGIS displaying an Arches resource that can have its geometry replaced or appended from the available QGIS layers.

We are very excited by the prospects of this plugin and hope the Arches community shares our enthusiasm. At this moment in time, the plugin is experimental and still in development, with a number of improvements planned. The code can be found on our GitHib page. Our aim has always been for this to be a collaborative project, whether you wish to help develop features, or just submit feature/bug requests, we encourage all to get involved.

Further information