Preforma: validation tools for heritage institutions
An important part of the digitisation process is checking that delivered file formats are valid and can be read correctly – also in the long term. It’s essential that they satisfy the required file format specifications, and fortunately there are validation tools and conformance checkers available for this.
The aim of the Preforma project was to develop similar tools for the most common archive formats, and we want to contribute to the project in order to support heritage institutions’ long-term storage policies.
Heritage institutions are increasingly saving digital files in the long term. But the sustainability of these digital files stands or falls with the archive format used, and whether it complies with the necessary standards. And unfortunately the people who create these files, and those who store them, often don’t check this conformity.
The organisations taking part in the Preforma project from 2014 until 2017 therefore wanted to develop a number tools, and it was important for meemoo and the other project partners that these tools had to be:
usable by a wide community of heritage institutions;
suitable for validating popular archive formats such as TIFF (for digital photos and scans), PDF/A (for digital documents) and MKV/FFV1 (for digital video).
Preforma’s main objective was to give heritage institutions full control of the technical properties for the files they need to store. Closely examining the needs and questions surrounding these tools together with various heritage institutions made it possible to develop the software to meet their needs.
In order to achieve all this, the Preforma project collaborated with heritage organisations, research institutions and other companies. The National Archives of Sweden (Riksarkivet) coordinated the project, with 15 partners from 9 European countries working together and sharing a wide variety of skills and expertise.
We adopted a pre-commercial procurement approach to develop the tools, where the research and development for new innovative solutions is acquired before being made commercially available. The idea behind this is that it challenges developers to develop innovative solutions to meet demand from the perspective of public sector requirements, and offers an initial customer reference that developers can use to create a competitive market advantage. The approach also makes it possible for public procurers to compare alternative solution approaches, and select the best ones available on the market to meet the public need. We took this challenge on to ensure the tender was brought to a successful conclusion.
We carried out various tasks in Preforma, including helping with the project management and communications, and being responsible for the content aspect of the tender procedure. We were also involved in defining the assignment for the (candidate) developers and evaluating the results.
Our biggest contribution was working out the functional requirements for the validation tools, which included:
assessing the workflow for providing files to heritage institutions, with particular attention to identification and validation procedures. We identified any gaps in these procedures and defined heritage institutions’ requirements;
developing use cases to improve identification and validation of the files provided;
defining the necessary reference implementations for the preservation formats requested by heritage institutions;
defining functional requirements for individual implementations of validation tools;
analysing existing solutions.
Preforma was a Pre-Commercial Procurement project partly funded by the European Commission.
Promoter Srl (IT)
Fraunhofer IDMT (DE)
University of Skovde (SE)
University of Padua (IT)
Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision (NL)
Greek Film Centre (GR)
Management Agency (IE)
Ajuntament de Girona (ES)
Estonian Ministry of Culture (EE)
Kungliga Biblioteket (SE)