Saturday, September 29, 2007

Preservation knowledge base PRONOM

Database of technical information on over 600 file formats and 250 software tools.

The biggest problem facing archivists is HOW to effectively preserve our old documents in the digital age.

Maybe the PRONOM database of solutions to archiving will help provide answers. It is described as "The online registry of technical information. PRONOM is a resource for anyone requiring impartial and definitive information about the file formats, software products and other technical components required to support long-term access to electronic records and other digital objects of cultural, historical or business value."

Ol' Myrt here found out about the knowledge base by reading that The National Archives (UK) has received the digital preservation award at the Conservation Awards 2007.

Knowledge base? Folks who tinker with computers know this is a term to describe a searchable, online collection of how-to info provided by a software or hardware company for its products. My first knowledge base experience was probably with an early version of Microsoft Windows. Free software "repair" patches weren't given in automatic updates in those days. Instead, we had to go to software giant Microsoft's knowledge base for Windows x.xx to find a solution to the problem and download the fix.

The knowledge base at The National Archives (UK) is different, in that it is providing info on a variety of sofotware programs, where the commonality is the goal of preservation of documents.


"The National Archives is celebrating its victory at the Conservation Awards 2007, winning the award for digital preservation. The award, presented on 27 September, recognises leadership and practical advancement in the new and challenging field of digital preservation. The prize was given to The National Archives for its work on active preservation through the development of two tools: the PRONOM Technical Registry and Digital Record Object Identification (DROID) file format identification.

Almost all the records created in government and an increasing number of those arriving at The National Archives, are now electronic. As technologies change and inevitably become obsolete, the information in these documents risks becoming inaccessible, providing one of the most fundamental challenges of digital preservation. A major challenge for The National Archives has been to develop the capability to preserve digital records in accessible form, across time and evolving technology.

The National Archives' PRONOM Technical Registry answers this challenge. PRONOM is an online knowledge base providing a simple interface to allow users to query a database of technical information on over 600 file formats and 250
software tools. In conjunction with this tool, The National Archives has also developed a standalone format identification tool called DROID, which identifies and reports the specific file format versions of digital files. Freely available to download under an Open Source licence and written in platform-independent Java, DROID supports batch processing of large numbers of files."

DearMYRTLE's readers will note that knowledge base PRONOM is located at:

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt :)
Your friend in genealogy.

(c) 2007 Pat Richley All Rights Reserved.

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