The BitCurator project was a joint effort led by the School of Information and Library Science at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (SILS) and the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH) to develop a system for collecting professionals that incorporates the functionality of many digital forensics tools. The project was funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation between 2011 and 2014 (grants 31100658 and 11300659). Ongoing maintenance and software development is managed by the BitCurator Consortium.

BitCurator addressed two fundamental needs for collecting institutions absent from software designed for the digital forensics industry: incorporation into workflows of archives/library ingest and collection management environments, and provision of public access to the data. Two groups of external partners contributed to this process: a Professional Expert Panel (PEP) of individuals at various levels of implementing digital forensics tools and methods in their collecting institution contexts, and a Development Advisory Group (DAG) of individuals who had significant experience with development of software.

BitCurator defined and tested support for a digital curation workflow that begins at the point of encountering holdings that reside on removable media—either new acquisitions or materials that are within a repository’s existing holdings—and extends to the point of interaction with an end user.


The BitCurator Environment is built on a stack of free and open source digital forensics tools and associated software libraries, modified and packaged for increased accessibility and functionality for collecting institutions. The BitCurator software is freely distributed under an open source license. It can be installed as a Linux environment; run as a virtual machine on top of most contemporary operating systems; or run as individual software tools, packages, support scripts, and documentation.

Features of BitCurator include:

  • Pre-imaging data triage
  • Forensic disk imaging
  • File system analysis and reporting
  • Identification of private and individually identifying information
  • Export of technical and other metadata

These tools are incorporated into the environment and workflow mapping in a modular fashion. Most are mature; as individual tools age, become deprecated, or lose support from upstream developers, they can be replaced without significantly altering the functionality of the environment.

Tools in the BitCurator Environment – both those produced by the project team and those from third-party developers – help advance core digital curation activities, including (but not limited to):

  • Reducing the risk of inadvertent changes to content through software-based write-blocking
  • Creating authentic copies of content through disk imaging and cryptographic hashing
  • Mounting forensically packaged disk images to view & export contents
  • Reflecting original order of materials through capture of file system metadata
  • Establishing trustworthy chains of custody through documentation of curatorial actions (log files, PREMIS records)
  • Generating reports that characterize the contents of disks and directories
  • Identifying and documenting duplicate files
  • Discovering and exposing associated contextual information
  • Identifying sensitive information that should be filtered, redacted, or masked in appropriate ways
  • Exporting contents of disks and directories for inclusion in Archival Information Packages and Dissemination Information Packages