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Visualizing archives: Spanish archives map

María-Jesús Colmenero-Ruiz
p. 409-412

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1The 2014/2015 academic year was the first to be taught the Master in Archives, Records Management and Digital Continuity at the University Carlos III Madrid, based on a blended learning model of attendance. This article describes the implementation of a visualization project based on geolocation of Spanish archives and its justification. The project arose from an optional practice proposed to the students of the subject “Re-use of data and documents” of this master course. This subject is optional and has a workload of 3 ECTS credits. The content of the subject is focused on the knowledge of the National and European legislations concerning the re-use of public sector information, the open data movement as a promoter of making available the information and awareness of the professional responsible for facilitating the generation of information in re-usable formats from the beginning of any document management system in the public sector and even in some private ones.

PSI directive (Public Information Reuse)

2At the end of 2003 the EU adopted the Directive on the re-use of public sector information (European Parliament, 2003). Also known as PSI Directive, intended to provide a common legislative framework for all EU countries in relation to the re-use of documents held by the public sector bodies regulating how they should make their information available for re-use, which, at that time, were very different. The aim was to remove existing barriers, such as discriminatory practices, monopoly markets and a lack of transparency. The reuse of information means allowing access to information to third parties, in open formats that facilitate their use for purposes other than those for which were originally conceived, alone or in combination with others, to provide value-added services including also commercial ones. The economic prospects for this activity provided promising and booming, hence the interest that no obstacles or differences between countries took place. However, the directive does not entail any obligation to allow re-use of documents, leaving it at the discretion of each Member State. France joined the directive in 2005 (France, 2005), as an amendment to a 1978 law (France, 1978) that had already collected as a right the access to public information. Spain, however, not incorporated it until 2007 (Spain, 2007) even though the deadline imposed was June 2005, which earned it a reprimand and fines from the EU for non-compliance. The PSI Directive has been revised in 2013 (European Parliament, 2013), creating “a genuine right to re-use public information ; all public data not covered by one of the exceptions will become re-usable” to “unlock the full potential of the open data goldmine” (European Commission, 2013). The revision incorporates a novelty of special interest for our professional field of research therefore expand its scope of application to cultural institutions such as libraries (including university libraries), museums and archives.

2015 Open Data Day

3Saturday, February 21, 2015 the Open Data Day took place. This event has been “a gathering of citizens in cities around the world to write applications, liberate data, create visualizations and publish analyses using open public data to show support for and encourage the adoption open data policies by the world’s local, regional and national governments”. And so, many hackathons are promoted all around the world ( The first Open Data Day was promoted by David Eaves and a small group in December 2010, following the success of the GovCamp event celebrated in Ottawa (http:www.eventbrite.comegovcamp-canada-tickets-657942925). They decided to organize an international macro-hackathon expecting a handful of cities to join. They got that 63 cities in 25 countries organized local activities simultaneously. This year was the fifth to be held. The Open Data Days are supported by Open Knowledge Foundation network. Since the first Open Data Day anyone who has interest to participate is invited, although some specific groups are highlighted. Among them the librarians, with the following text “I heard you folks like books and eat catalogs of data for breakfast. You beautiful people are going to scour the earth for interesting data, help the rest of us figure out what’s important, and generally be useful.”

Open map of Spanish archives

4By knowing about the summon of 2015 Open Data Day in Madrid, at the headquarters of Medialab-Prado the idea of making a proposal emerged to be performed with my master degree students to explore the open data world and its possibilities for archives. It was also intended that the changes promoted by the amendment of the directive in which archives will be included as institutions whose information and data are likely to be re-used1. As a first step, we decided to make a visual database of those archives in Spain : how many archives exist, what kind are they, where are they... and so on. The initial data would be taken from the Instituto Nacional de Estadística (National Statistics Institute) - INE (NSI) (list of municipalities, provinces, communities and autonomous cities and their codes​jaxi/​​t20/​e245/​codmun&file=inebase&L=0, from the website of the Ministry of Culture) and the website of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports, which depend on institutionally the State Archives (​cultura-mecd/​areas-cultura/​archivos.html), and the website of the various institutional bodies (Autonomous Communities and municipalities) to collect updated data.

5Since 1972 this information about the Spanish archives is available on the Census-Guide Archives of Spain and Latin America prepared by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport of Spain. Initially as a printed catalog, the work was continued within the activities of CIDA, which released the information first through the PIC (Point of Cultural Information) and, more recently, online through the website of the General Department State Archives (​CensoGuia/​directorioarchivosInicial.htm). Although this online database provides an appropriate way for the information about the location and type of Spanish archives we think that visualization with geolocation on a map was more suited for use on the Web.

6The students who wanted it, have participated in the hackathon voluntarily, being valued in the evaluation of the subject but not penalized. The teacher of another related subject was also invited to participate, and he kindly agreed. During the Open Data Day, data were collected from selected sources, many of which were not in suitable formats. It was only a first approximation, which is still open and in process. For display, since we do not have a web programmer at our disposal, we chose an open source application from a Spanish enterprise which allows geolocation data and facilitates their categorization : CartooDB. The geolocation of archives on the map was provided to us by CartoDB (2012) that allows it automatically from various types of data : lat/long columns ; City Name, Administrative Regions, Postal Codes, IP Addresses and Street Addresses. The latter was the option chosen (see​tutorials/​how_to_georeference/​). Moreover, the company has kindly provided us with some features restricted to free accounts, as sync tables option, that store data from a remote file (from Google Drive, Dropbox, Box or a public URL) and refresh their contents during periodic intervals specified by the user. The team opened a website where to show the results : through which access to the prototype of the interactive map. It has three layers of geographic information, two with the geographical boundaries of administrative Spanish divisions and one with the data about archives. Points in the It also provides information gathered for each point through an info window that the owner of the map can design.


7The Open map of Spanish archives Project has two very interesting aspects from the professional point of view. First, as a source of information for open data, the geolocation of the archives on a map and the provision of additional information allow the quick and easy location of information, currently scattered in different places. Having an index for quick access is the first step so the data can be considered really open and available for re-use by others. Second, in preparing future professionals. In addition to the positive to take classrooms “to the street”, the proposal has been for all an engaging experience, relationship with other professionals and awareness of the future value of their work.

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CartoDB (2012),

EUROPEAN COMMISSION (2013), Commission welcomes Parliament adoption of new EU Open Data rules. Memo 13-555. <>.

EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT (2003), Directive 2003/98/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 November 2003 on the re-use of public sector information. <>

EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT (2013), Directive 2013/37/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 June 2013 amending Directive 2003/98/EC on the re-use of public sector information Text with EEA relevance.

FRANCE (1978), LOI n° 78·753 du 17 juillet 1978 portant diverses mesures d’amélioration des relations entre l’administration et le public et diverses dispositions d’ordre administratif, social et fiscal. <>

FRANCIA (2005), Ordonnance n° 2005-650 du 6 juin 2005 relative à la liberté d’accès aux documents administratifs et à la réutilisation des informations publiques. <>

SPAIN (2007), Ley 37/2007, de 16 de noviembre, sobre reutilización de la información del sector público. BOE n° 276, 17/11/2007, n° 19814, pp. 47160 – 47165. < ?id =BOE-A-2007-19814&tn =1&vd =&p =20071117>. (Law on the re-use of public sector information. English translation at <>)

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María-Jesús Colmenero-Ruiz, « Visualizing archives: Spanish archives map », Netcom, 29-3/4 | 2015, 409-412.

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María-Jesús Colmenero-Ruiz, « Visualizing archives: Spanish archives map », Netcom [En ligne], 29-3/4 | 2015, mis en ligne le 23 mai 2016, consulté le 15 décembre 2017. URL : ; DOI : 10.4000/netcom.2143

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María-Jesús Colmenero-Ruiz

Profesor Ayudante Doctor. Library and Information Science Department, Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, Spain. E-mail :

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