Discovering Authenticity

Getting to the heart of places that matter.

Category: News

Inventory Software is Getting Even Better

An up-to-date, detailed inventory of heritage assets is every preservation organization’s most important tool. For monitoring, risk management, and raising public awareness, a state-of-the-art inventory system is essential, especially now at a time of budget tightening and increasing threats to built heritage.  Put bluntly, you can’t effectively protect and promote what you don’t know you have.

News came last week from Alison Dalgity, project manager of Arches at the Getty Conservation Institute about the upgrades and improvements planned for their powerful open source heritage inventory software later this year.

Arches Inventory + Interpretation

Arches is an open source heritage inventory platform developed under the auspices of the Getty Conservation Institute and the World Monuments Fund. It has enormous potential for interpretation too.

According to Alison, version 4 “will take Arches to a whole new level,” especially in its capacity to store data collected offline on mobile devices—and to upload it to the inventory when connectivity is reestablished.

Arches has already been a game-changer. It’s a powerful web-based tool that can be used simultaneously by multiple staff members to add, edit, and update entries directly from the field. Because of its responsive design, it’s accessible on any mobile device without special software—and allows multiple authorized users to upload and edit data, thereby maximizing results without adding or overtaxing staff time.

See what an Arches Inventory Can Do

There’s so much more to add about how Arches is the cutting-edge inventory tool that eliminates duplication of records in different media and ensures the security of your data (and images) in the cloud. We’ll be happy to offer a free online demo and show you how it can also be used as a powerful web-based interpretive tool.

Check out Arches on Demand for more details about its features and potential. And leave the technical tasks of installation, configuration, and hosting to us…


Does heritage nostalgia have an expiration date?

We’re used to seeing expiration dates on food and medicine bottles, but is generational nostalgia for certain heritage attractions something that can also go stale?

A study was carried out in collaboration with the National Park Service Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program and World Monuments Fund and was funded by American Express

A study was carried out in collaboration with the National Park Service Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program and World Monuments Fund and was funded by American Express

Seems like the mythic Route 66 is one of them.  In a 2011 study, a team from the Rutgers Center for Urban Policy Research headed by David Listokin, documented just how passé  the 2400-mile-long heritage attraction has become.

According to the study, a survey of Route 66 travelers indicated that they are 97% white and non-Hispanic, have a median age of 55 (in fact, almost half were 60 or over).  Only 11% of the visitors were in the 20-39 demographic group.

So if Route 66 is a thoroughly baby boomer heritage attraction, what will happen to its economic sustainability and thus physical conservation when the traveling days of baby boomers come to an end?

It’s a problem of obvious concern to the proprietors of the hundreds of kitschy, quirky roadside attractions that line America’s “Mother Road” from Chicago to Santa Monica.

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One of these entrepreneurs, recently featured in a  recent LA Times story, is Kumar Patel, manager of the family-owned Wigwam Motel in San Bernadino, California.  There were once 7 “Wigwam Villages” built across the country between 1930 and 1949, with individual accommodations in the form of “teepees,” meant to lure vacationers to stay overnight at these roadside novelties.

Wigwam Village #2, June 1940. Photo: Marion Post Wolcott for the New Deal Resettlement Administration.

But today’s Gen Xers (born c. 1965-1985) and Millennials (born c. 1985-2005) don’t seem to find resonance in the romance of the outdated, politically incorrect, and stereotyped landmarks of the open road.

Kumar Patel is one of the spokespersons for making the charms of Route 66 more attractive to younger travelers.

He’s organized “Indian Summer” hip-hop festivals at his Wigwam Motel and decorates the teepees as Christmas Trees in December.  All this to create a sense of the weird and unique, rather than the nostalgic.  The jury is still out whether this marketing strategy will work.

And it also brings up a big question about the inevitable transformation of heritage authenticity as generations change.  At what point does literal preservation have to give way to new values?  Do hip-hop, DJ strobe lights, and seasonal celebrations  irreversibly change classic 20th century heritage into 21st century hipster culture?  And does that matter at all?


Dreaming Big about Open Cultural Data

How about a massive digital heritage project where all participants are welcome and the ideas are yet to come?  In contrast to the many EU and NSF digital heritage projects where the end deliverables are explicitly stated, the  {cod1ng da v1nc1} project— a joint undertaking of the Open Knowledge Foundation, the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek, Wikimedia Deutschland, and Digis– have thrown open 15 data sets from cultural institutions and 2 APIs (an API or “application programming interface” is what allows developers interact with online data or software) to develop innovative cultural heritage applications.

Coding davinci

Four challenges have been offered up for the most creative solutions that any willing participant wants to tackle:

Mash it!  applications that create new insights by combining different cultural data sets.

Move it! applications that allow more inclusive public participation through things like augmented reality, user experience, and social media

Discover it!  applications that provide playful learning experiences

Improve it!  applications that improve the usefulness of digital data by cultural institutions of all kinds

Goals like these have been aimed at many times before, but never in such a free form way.  The four challenges are the centerpieces of a 10-week hackathon in which programmers, computer geeks, and cultural data engineers from all over Germany are invited to try their hand at changing the way digital heritage is used.

Project concepts have already begun to flow in.  Once the idea is posted and collaborators recruited, it will be a mad dash of brainstorming, programming, and testing until the finished projects are unveiled in July.  Hackathons are already well known in the world of information technology; Google, Yahoo, and even government agencies have held hackathons to harvest public creativity and gain innovative solutions to particular challenges.  Thousands of proposals have been posted and hundreds of professional and avocational programmers have taken part.

Here are two early ideas that benefit both the users and the cultural organizations themselves:

Goethe2Go – geotagging meets gamification

The project idea is for a mobile app contest in which participants race to identify hidden historical spots in their city, and in doing so provide valuable crowd-sourced location data to the cultural institution.  We could imagine such an application to be extremely useful for organizations with archival photographs of architectural elements, buildings, and street views that are lacking locational metadata.  It is a win-win for everyone.


This project idea attempts to overcome the fact that digital archives are steadily growing, but users don’t necessarily know how much of the collected material would be interesting or valuable to them.  How can someone find an archival item that they don’t know exists?  The proposed answer here is the creation of a new search interface in the form of mosaic patterns, arranged according to the degree of relatedness of their content that can be set by the user.  Like the Visual Thesaurus, it could offer not only a new way of accessing museum collections but also provide surprising and enlightening juxtapositions of content that the searcher did not anticipate.

Coding da Vinci - Der Kultur-Hackathon.  Photo: Volker Agueras Gäng

Coding da Vinci – Der Kultur-Hackathon. Photo: Volker Agueras Gäng

We’ll keep an eye on the hackathon as it proceeds.  But it is already opening the door a bit wider to truly participatory cultural archives.

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