On April 11, 2017, the National Archives of the Netherlands (NANETH) and Het Utrechts Archief (HUA), held a workshop about the preservation tools PRONOM, DROID and JHOVE. Annelot Vijn (Application Manager Department of Archives at HUA) and I, Remco van Veenendaal (Preservation Advisor at NANETH), prepared the programme, and I led the workshop. Starting with definitions of preservation and curation, we zoomed in on reference and life cycle models, preservation policies (using the Dutch translation of the SCAPE policy elements), preservation tools (COPTR) and the specific tools PRONOM, DROID and JHOVE. In the final part of the workshop, we zoomed out again. The role of the tools in the overall preservation process and in systems like DMSs/RMAs and the e-depot were discussed.
HUA and the municipality of Utrecht wanted to learn more about the preservation tools PRONOM, DROID and JHOVE, as they are integrated in their e-depot. As NANETH provides this e-depot, Annelot asked NANETH to provide a workshop about these tools. This started the cooperation between Annelot and my section Record Keeping and Preservation at NANETH. In consultation with Annelot I created a programme for one afternoon, and we set a date. We also cooperated internationally, and received very useful material about PRONOM and DROID from David Clipsham of The National Archives (U.K.). The Open Preservation Foundation (OPF) specially developed a presentation on JHOVE for this workshop. The OPF also sent JHOVE stickers (which were in great demand).
Ten employees from HUA and the municipality of Utrecht joined the workshop, and one representative of NIOD (Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies). Some sample documents for live tool analysis during the workshop were sent to me beforehand (and they turned out to be well-formed and valid). Partly because of the questions that were asked by the participants in advance, we did not limit the workshop to the three tools specifically. The questions were also about policy, transfer, et cetera.
The workshop turned out to be interactive and zippy. We saw that PRONOM is a file format registry. DROID identifies files. JHOVE identifies, validates and characterises files. Participants learned that Microsoft Office Word .docx files are in fact ZIP containers with a folder structure with (XML) files. We discussed archival terminology and devilish dilemmas: is it good (because it is useful and may otherwise not happen) that NANETH and Dutch Regional Historic Centres (including HUA) are preparing a joint preservation policy based on NANETH’s, or bad (because some people may stop to think if a policy can be reused)? Conversely, suppose that NANETH advises that WordPerfect files really need to be converted to PDF/A, should not everyone just have to follow this advice?
In any case, the municipalities welcome a role as ‘first in the chain’ of being responsible for sustainable accessibility of digital information: start (create) with the end (sustainable access) in mind. At the same time, all the technical capabilities of the tools – identification, validation, characterisation – are somewhat frightening: do we have to take all that into account as well? Personally, I would say yes, but nicely embedded and hidden in the background. This particular ‘start with the end in mind’-mentality should be integrated in the overall digital document life cycle, and not be limited to the preservation phase.