Join us at the new WGBH Satellite Studio @ BPL!

On Thursday, October 20 at 11am, WGBH Media Library and Archives (MLA) staff will host an event at WGBH’s new satellite studio in the Newsfeed Cafe at the Boston Public Library’s Johnson Building! Join us that day to learn about WGBH’s history and about the historic collections preserved and made accessible by the MLA.

WGBH MLA staff Leah Weisse, Production Archival Compliance Manager, and Casey Davis, MLA Senior Project Manager, will meet with library patrons and the public to discuss WGBH’s history, its productions, and provide an overview of the activities of the WGBH Media Library and Archives. Attendees will explore some of the historic audio and video content that is preserved by the WGBH Archives, and Leah and Casey will provide a demo showing attendees how to access WGBH’s historic collection of television, radio, and other materials.

For more info contact Casey Davis at We hope to see you there!

WGBH’s new satellite studio at the Boston Public Library. Photo credit: Casey Robidoux WGBH News

Trello – Technical Tuesday

There are many workflow and project task management / tracking applications available to use these days.  We’ve found a particularly helpful one in Trello and are highlighting it as a conclusion to our month long Technical Tuesday blog posts.

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Trello is a web-based tool that organizes tasks by using cards.  Cards can be organized into lists to track progress.  If you have a three step process you need to run on something, you create a card for the “thing” and move it into each phase of the process as you work.

Trello works well for us in the Media Library and Archives.  We have several people working on an item at any given time and Trello allows us to comment and mention other team members when they need to do their part of the process.

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It’s helped our archiving process because we know exactly where in the workflow an item is at any time.

You can also add useful labels to your cards as well as things like checklists and due dates.  There is even email integration, so you can forward an email to Trello and it will create a new card with the attached email.

You can sign up for Trello here.  There are free and paid account options available.


File Information Tool Set – Technical Tuesday

FITS (File Information Tool Set) is an application that extracts technical metadata from digital files.  It’s extremely important in WGBH’s digital preservation process because it makes use of several other metadata information tools and combines their output into a single xml document.

FITS combines the following tools:

ADL Tool
Apache Tika
File Utility (windows port)
National Library of New Zealand Metadata Extractor
OIS Audio Information
OIS File Information
OIS XML Information

We use FITS to generate a xml document for every file we preserve.  FITS even generates an MD5 value for each file it processes so if you’d normally be running a MD5 checksum on your files, you can generate a rich technical metadata document and it will take nearly the same amount of time.

You can get more information and download FITS on Harvard’s Institute for Quantitative Social Science project website.  The FITS Users Google Group is also a great place to ask questions, report bugs, or suggest improvements.

NameChanger – Technical Tuesday

NameChanger from MRR Software is a Mac OS X 10.3 and above application used to rename digital files.

We’ve found NameChanger extremely useful when grooming hard drives before processing them for digital preservation.  When files are delivered to the Media Library and Archives we find that sometimes a user will have used special characters when naming them.
Special characters include & : ; , ' / and can cause errors in the way we process the files.

For example, a slash / commonly used in writing a date means something different when a computer is processing a file named that way.

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In our digital preservation processes the computer would try and find a text file named “2016.txt” located in folders “4” and then “1”.  It reads the slash as a change in the folder path.

What the NameChanger application does is lets you replace characters across all the files you drag into a session window.

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See above, NameChanger actually reads the slash character as a colon.  You just have to tell the application to take all the occurrences of : and replace them with _ or another character that won’t mess up your processing.

It even lets you prepend or append things to your file names, which is also very handy if you are trying to clean up an entire hard drive of files.

NameChanger is available for free on the MRR Software website, donations are encouraged.

Digital Format Information – Technical Tuesday

Thanks for checking out our new Technical Tuesday blog where we hope to share useful tips and techniques related to digital preservation and access.
This week’s topic is the selecting a digital format for your audio/video files.

Choosing the right digital format for your media files can be tricky. You have to take into account a number of factors and use cases as well as limitations that may be imposed by your institution. Some archives accept and preserve the digital files as they are while others may decide to digitize or transcode to another format more suited for preservation.

We’ve found a good resource to learn more about digital file formats is the Sustainability of Digital Formats Planning for the Library of Congress Collection website.

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There, you can search for different codecs and wrappers you may be thinking of using on a project. On each record page there is a good amount of information related to things you may not have been thinking about, like common adoption of a codec or any licensing or patent information. When planning for long term digital preservation it’s good to know if a codec or wrapper you are using may have limited access or support in the future because of those kinds of restrictions. Maybe your format is proprietary and could someday require a license? If you discover a format that’s open source, you may want to also archive a copy of the source code.

Being able to gather your own information and reference a source like this can also support your case if you have to explain your workflows to any other institutional management wondering why you would choose to use format “X”.

One extremely useful bit of information we’ve found on these pages is the “Production phase” information. Here, it describes what the format is more than likely used for in the phase of a production.
“Middle state, used for storage or archiving” or “Production (initial state) and post production (middle state).”

If you don’t have much experience with different digital file formats, this kind of information can help steer you into a solution that will fit your project goals.

MD5 Checksum – Technical Tuesday

Thanks for checking out the WGBH Media Library and Archives’ blog for our first Technical Tuesday. We’ll be sharing some of the techniques we use in our daily digital preservation and access processes. First up, creating MD5 checksums for files.

What’s a MD5?
A MD5 checksum hash is a value composed of 32 digits that can be calculated from a digital file to verify integrity and looks like this 9aee1a70c2055b5eaba6dcb73ffe42cc

At WGBH we generate and compare MD5 values every time we copy a file from one storage medium to another. If the MD5 value is not identical between the source and copied file, it means there was a change to the file somewhere during the transfer and the files are not identical.

We generate and store MD5 checksums for every file we preserve. When we run processes to check the integrity of our digital files, it’s important we have a base value to compare to.

Systems and software we use:
– Computer with Mac OS X 10.5 or higher
– “Terminal” application included with OS X

Generating an MD5 for a file is simple.
Open the Terminal application.

$ md5 /folder/path/to/your/file/example.txt

Press “return”
That should return a value that looks similar to this:

MD5 (/folder/path/to/your/file/example.txt) = 9aee1a70c2055b5eaba6dcb73ffe42cc

That is the MD5 checksum for that example text file.

If you wanted to save that MD5 value to a separate csv report file you can do this:

$ md5 /folder/path/to/your/file/example.txt >> /path/to/your/report/file/md5_report.csv

Press “return” and you’ll find a new file created in the folder, /path/to/your/report/file/, called “md5_report.csv”. Inside it will have the filename MD5 output for the original file.
In the WGBH Media Library and Archives, we generate a MD5 csv report file for an entire directory on files on a hard drive using these commands:

$ cd directory
$ find "$(pwd -P)" -not -path '*/\.*' -type f -exec md5 '{}' \; >> /path/to/your/destination/folder/md5_report.csv

Once we have that, we can compare those MD5 values to another list to verify files have been copied successfully.

It’s important to note that there are other checksum algorithms besides MD5 that are more unique, such as SHA-256.

To calculate the SHA-256 value:

$ shasum -a 256 /folder/path/to/your/file/example.txt

The value should look something like this

We don’t use SHA-256 yet at WGBH because the preservation software and systems are not yet making use of it.

Check back here every Tuesday for more tips!

Check out the new & improved Open Vault!

The WGBH Media Library and Archives is happy to announce a new and improved, easier to navigate Open Vault.

We want Open Vault to be a useful resource for researchers and scholars interested in topics covered by the thousands of television and radio programs created by WGBH. Because of this, we’ve taken the time to improve our catalog of more than 42,000 records, making content more discoverable than past iterations of the site.

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We’ve also made improvements to the technology that runs Open Vault. We’re able to add new content and improve the data within the records more easily and often. We have also added links within records to the thousands of digitized WGBH media content available online at The American Archive of Public Broadcasting or The Boston Local TV News Digital Library  websites.

Another feature we’re excited provide is documentation and examples of some of our archival practices, so keep an eye on this blog as this material is made available.

Where to Start?

You can browse over 1,000 WGBH series titles and from there explore entire programs or clips available to view online.

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Open Vault also features curated, scholar exhibits ranging from topics like needlework and cooking to Boston’s 1960s Civil Rights movement.

You will also find WGBH special collections. These collections feature WGBH produced content centered around a specific program or topic. Many of these collections feature complete, unedited interviews from people featured in programs like Vietnam: A Television History, War and Peace in the Nuclear Age and Rock and Roll.

These Open Vault improvements will allow us to highlight important, historical content in new and exciting ways and well as better contribute and engage with the archival and library communities. Please visit often and follow us on Twitter and Facebook for updates.

User Funded Digitization

We’re happy to announce that the first Open Vault user funded digitization of a program has been completed and is now available to listen to online!

The program audio comes from the series, The Advocates episode 103 “Should the Law Permit Voluntary Euthanasia for the Terminally Ill?”

You can access the program audio by clicking this link.

If you haven’t tried requesting digitization or transcription of a program, it’s easy!

First register for a free Open Vault account and login.

Then search for a record of interest and click the “Request Digitization” or “Request Transcript” button.

That’s it!  You will then receive more information about your request via email from WGBH.

The New Open Vault


As you’ve probably seen, Open Vault looks a little different than it did a month ago. The WGBH Media Library and Archives team have been hard at work revamping the website for over a year now and we’re happy to announce some new features you’ll be able to take advantage of.

Scholar Collections
You’ll notice on the right side of the homepage there are Scholar Collections. During the past year we’ve completed a project where scholars were granted access to WGBH material of all kinds of topics and then created articles based on their research. We’re pleased to announce that those articles, as well as related media and content, are now available on Open Vault as part of the Scholar Collections.

Browse WGBH Series and Programs
Another new feature of Open Vault is the ability to browse material that WGBH has in it’s Media Library and Archives. On the top of any page if you click on the “Series” button you’ll be taken to a page with an alphabetical list of all the Series we have material for in the Archives. Clicking on a particular Series title, you’ll be taken to a page listing the Series description as well as a list of Programs. If you click on a Program title, you’ll be taken to a page that has the description of the Program. If audio, video, or image material is available and digitized on Open Vault from a particular program, you’ll also be able to see that there as well.
We’re exposing our collection to the public in hopes to gain interest and provide access.

Request Digitization of Audio Video or Transcript
A feature that we introduced on the Boston TV News Digital Library website ( is the ability to request that a program be digitized. As part of this Open Vault relaunch, we’re including the ability to request a digital transcript be made of a program as well.
How it works is if you register for a free account on Open Vault, when you navigate to a page where no video is streaming and/or no transcript is viewable, you have the ability to pay for the digitization yourself by clicking the “Request Digitization” or “Request Transcription” button. This will send an email to the WGBH MLA staff and someone will be in contact with you about how much it would cost you to make that request digitized and available on Open Vault (rights permitting).  Think of it as a sponsorship of the preservation of the asset as well as helping to pay to make it accessible for everyone on the internet.

Improved Features
Even features that worked well on the older version of the Open Vault website have been given slight upgrades. You should notice improved browser compatibility, even on mobile devices. The video player is improved and navigating longer length media is easier. If a transcript exists for a video file and you jump to a specific point in the video, the transcript should automatically move there as well.

As with any website re-launch, there are still some bugs the development team is hard at work on so if any functionality is missing or a link is broken, rest assured we’re hard at work trying to resolve those issues quickly. Thank you for your patience.

Please feel free to direct any comments or questions to openvault[at]wgbh[dot]org.

Thank you for taking the time to use Open Vault and we look forward to bringing additional access to users in the future.

-WGBH Media Library and Archives

1st reel of legendary James Brown concert returned to ‘GBH

James Brown performing at the Boston Garden in 1968.

The Media Library and Archives has long been in possession 2nd and 3rd reel of the 1968 James Brown concert, an event credited with keeping the peace after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It wasn’t until a few months ago that members of our stock sales team discovered that the original 2inch videotape of the first hour of the concert, missing all these years, was in storage with the James Brown Estate. As part of the licensing agreement for the upcoming documentary on James Brown, the stock sales team negotiated the deposit of a preservation quality digital surrogate into the WGBH Archives.

To share this recent discovery with other WGBH staff, the MLA arranged for a screening of the “lost reel.” Employees took time out of their busy schedules to relive a famous night in Boston history. The screening included the best of the “lost” first reel, which had lots of technical sound difficulties. This included a rare performance of Brown singing “If I Ruled the World” and James Brown addressing the audience in a unique moment. In addition, a second James Brown performance of “Going to Kansas City,” as well as powerful words from Brown, City Councilor Thomas Atkins, and Mayor Kevin White screened from the later reels.

One of the employees who attended was WGBH Jazz Gallery’s Al Davis, who was at the concert in 1968. Davis was kind enough to get up and share a few words with his fellow employees. He spoke of how his mother wasn’t sure she should let him go to the concert. He was ultimately allowed to go and headed down to the Boston Garden on the Orange Line. The event was very meaningful to him, especially since James Brown was such an important mentor to young black students at the time. Davis also recounted how under the urging of James Brown and others the crowd truly did remain peaceful after the concert.

You can watch clips from the concert, like this part of James Brown’s tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr.