Friday, September 28, 2007

award for digital preservation tool

A press release was circulated via email announcing that DROID, a tool from The National Archives in London, had won the 2007 Digital Preservation Award.

From the press release:

An innovative tool to analyse and identify computer file formats has won the 2007 Digital Preservation Award.

DROID, developed by The National Archives in London, can examine any mystery file and identify its format. The tool works by gathering clues from the internal 'signatures' hidden inside every computer file, as well as more familiar elements such as the filename extension (.jpg, for example), to generate a highly accurate 'guess' about the software that will be needed to read the file.

Identifying file formats is a thorny issue for archivists. Organisations such as the National Archives have an ever-increasing volume of electronic records in their custody, many of which will be crucial for future historians to understand 21st-century Britain. But with rapidly changing technology and an unpredictable hardware base, preserving files is only half of the challenge. There is no guarantee that today's files will be readable or even recognisable using the software of the future.

Now, by using DROID and its big brother, the unique file format database known as PRONOM, experts at the National Archives are well on their way to cracking the problem. Once DROID has labelled a mystery file, PRONOM's extensive catalogue of software tools can advise curators on how best to preserve the file in a readable format. The database includes crucial information on software and hardware lifecycles, helping to avoid the obsolescence problem. And it will alert users if the program needed to read a file is no longer supported by manufacturers.

PRONOM's system of identifiers has been adopted by the UK government and is the only nationally-recognised standard in its field.

The judges chose The National Archives from a strong shortlist of five contenders, whittled down from the original list of thirteen. The prestigious award was presented in a special ceremony at The British Museum on 27 September 2007 as part of the 2007 Conservation Awards, sponsored by Sir Paul McCartney.

Ronald Milne, Chair of the Board of Directors of the Digital Preservation Coalition, which sponsors the award, said: "The National Archives fully deserves the recognition that accompanies this award."

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