Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Grant Expands Digital Forensics Work for Librarians and Archivists

April 8, 2013

Dr. Cal LeeCHAPEL HILL - The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's School of Information and Library Science (SILS) has received a $456,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support the second phase of the BitCurator project, to develop, distribute and integrate open source forensic software tools to manage and preserve digital archives.  BitCurator is a partnership between SILS and the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH) at the University of Maryland.

Digital forensics is “the process of identifying, preserving, analyzing and presenting digital evidence in a manner that is legally acceptable.”

“With more and more materials created in digital form, there is a clear need for archivists, librarians and others who work with digital documents in their organizations to preserve and protect them for future use,” said Christopher (Cal) Lee, associate professor at SILS and principal investigator of the project. “The digital forensics tools we’re developing and disseminating will assist this process.”  

Because materials are now predominantly “born digital,” (i.e., created electronically) collecting institutions have great opportunities to acquire and preserve resources developed throughout the creative process. In order to seize these opportunities, information professionals must be prepared to extract digital materials from removable media in ways that preserve their integrity and reflect their provenance and chain of custody. They must also support and mediate appropriate access - allowing users to make sense of materials and understand their context, while also preventing inadvertent disclosure of sensitive data.  Digital forensics tools and methods can greatly facilitate meeting all of these goals.

“The first phase of BitCurator has been quite successful in developing tools, engaging with relevant professional communities and disseminating associated information,” said Lee. “The activities planned for phase 2 will be vital to advancing the ultimate BitCurator goals of professional capacity building, outreach and sustainability of related development activities. We are grateful to the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for their vision and continued support for what we feel is an imperative building block in our growing digital world.”

Other members of the BitCurator Project team include Matthew Kirschenbaum, associate director of MITH and co-principal investigator of the project; Kam Woods, technical lead and postdoctoral research associate at SILS; Alex Chassanoff, project manager and SILS doctoral student; SILS master’s student Sunitha Misra; and Porter Olsen, doctoral student at the University of Maryland. 
As a part of the transition to this second phase, the BitCurator project team is seeking a person for a community lead position who will help to build an active user community, promote the work and provide expert support to users. This person would be responsible for conducting site visits to work with the partner institutions represented on the BitCurator Professional Experts Panel and Development Advisory Group; promoting BitCurator through social media, online community-building and at conferences; gathering and analyzing user feedback in conjunction with developers; creating and maintaining documentation; and working with the project team to develop a long-term sustainability plan for BitCurator's deliverables.

For more information about the BitCurator project, visit the Web site at or follow @bitcurator on Twitter. For more about the community lead position, visit