Review of XENA Normalization Software

On April 22, 2010, in Research, by Chris Prom

Since getting back from our family holiday to Skye, I spent a bit of time working with the Xena (XML Electtronic Normalization for Archives)  tool, which has been developed by the National Archives of Australia.  I had used it (albeit indirectly) in the past, since it was included as the migration engine in the proof of concept version of Archivematica.

Simply put, Xena is a tool that identifies and migrates many common file formats using other open source migration tools (such as FLAC, Imagemagick, and Open Office).  Files that are cannot be converted to an open format undergo ‘binary normalization’, in which the original file is converted to lossless base64 ASCII format. The normalized files can be viewed and exported (or in the case of the binary normalized files, converted back to their original binary format) using a Xena Viewer, which is included in the distribution.  Xena is available under the GPL 3 license.

Based on the testing I’ve done with it, I think Xena could play a role in small archives that want to automate many  file migration tasks.  However, any repository wishing to use it will need to accept the guiding philosophy behind the tool and basically agree that the normalization actions that the tool completes are acceptable (more on that later.)

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