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File Information Tool Set Enhancements

Harvard Library Technology Services has enhanced the FITS software package with a new tool that processes video files.


The File Information Tool Set (FITS) is a DRS-related software package developed by Harvard Library Technology Services that identifies the format of each content file to be deposited—is the file an image, a text file, a PDF file, etc?—and confirms that it appears to be validly formatted. In addition, the tool set extracts technical metadata about the file that is required for digital preservation purposes. For a digital image, for example, technical metadata includes image height, width, bits-per-sample, colorspace, etc. This metadata is stored in the Digital Repository Service so that files with particular characteristics can be located for collection management and digital preservation management.

As part of an Arcadia-funded project to increase the number of file formats for which the Digital Repository Service can perform long-term preservation, FITS was recently updated to include a new tool that can process video files. So that digital repositories at other institutions can make use of Harvard’s investment in this tool set, Harvard has contributed FITS as open-source software, available on GitHub, and documented here. Since the first version was originally released in 2009, Harvard has updated the open-source software many times with new tools and features.

FITS has been downloaded hundreds of times. It is now used not just in Harvard’s Digital Repository Service but also in many of the leading digital repository systems around the world. ArchivematicaIslandora, the German National Library (DNB), and Penn State’s ScholarSphere all use it for file characterization and metadata extraction.

This tool set bundles a number of other open-source software tools to perform format analysis. For video projects, the MediaInfo tool was added. The Digital Repository Service will start to make use of the new version of the tool set later this year when video becomes a supported format in the DRS. Library Technology Services expects rapid adoption of this new version for other digital repositories as well.

The video enhancement work was led by Andrea Goethals, digital preservation and repository manager, and David Ackerman, head of Media Preservation Services, and performed by software developer David Birtwell.

Article written by Randy Stern.

Article published on February 3, 2016.