Jaime Olmedo: «Spain is at the top of the world in the electronic development of the humanities»

Jaime Olmedo, director of the 'Electronic Biographical Dictionary', of the Royal Academy of History. / C7

The 'Electronic Biographical Dictionary' of the Royal Academy of History, with more than 50,000 entries, is presented this Thursday at the Casa de Colón

CANARY ISLANDS7 The Gran Canarian palms

The 'Electronic Biographical Dictionary' (DB~e) of the
Royal Academy of History is a digital environment to access the largest content database on characters in the history of Spain, an immense wealth of information available for the first time in electronic format, completely free of charge. Its culmination has been an enormous task carried out by
5,000 historians and 500 Spanish and foreign institutions.

The project has been directed by J
aime Olmedo, eminent philologist and academicdetermined to demonstrate that the dictionary is much more than a digitization, «
It is a new plant project structured to measure for a digital environment», he assures.

The edition, which includes numerous references to the most important characters in the history of the Canary Islands, such as the writers
Benito Pérez Galdós, Tomas Morales or Josefina de la Torre; the brothers León and Castillo or the politician Juan Negrín, is made known for the first time in the Canary Islands at the Casa de Colón. The appointment is this Thursday, at 7:30 p.m., with free admission until full capacity is reached.

The event will be attended by the director of the Royal Academy of History,
Carmen IglesiasCountess of Gisbert, Jaime Olmedo Ramos, as technical director of the DB~e, and
Santiago Saenz Samaniegodocumentary filmmaker for DB~e.

50,000 character tokens

The dictionary has more than 50,000 character files that have been structured in standardized fields. "The biggest challenge was not to overwhelm the user," says Jaime Olmedo. «We had to offer simple navigation and easy access to content, made up of more than
60,000 pages of text». Getting an effective and intuitive presentation was a challenge.

Another complicated challenge was, according to Olmedo, the establishment of links between the different characters, a
essential tool for project. "It has been a process that has not been mechanized by any computer development, given that many characters in the Dictionary are homonyms to each other," the technical director of the project tries to explain.

There are also cases of heteronymy of the same character and numerous cases of ambiguity, especially in relation to titles of nobility or reference to positions in the State Administration. "Namely,
when the Duke of Alba is mentioned in a biography, it is necessary to identify who he was at that time; or if it is indicated that a character sends a memorial to the president of the Council of Castile, the link must be established with the character who at that precise moment held such dignity, and this process has only been accomplished through links established manually after a thorough reading of the texts”, clarifies the academic.

higher figures

“Although some countries have their national biographical dictionary, none reaches the figures of our Biographical Dictionary,
not even oxford, which is the one with the most approximate figures. In addition, none of these analogous works has a computer development as rich as that of the Royal Academy of History». Jaime Olmedo is proud of the achievements achieved. And is not for less. «It can be said that with the 'Electronic Biographical Dictionary' Spain has placed a cultural project, which combines knowledge and technology, in
the world leader in electronic developments applied to the Humanities», he assures.

In the dictionary's advanced search engine, each character is characterized according to twenty criteria "that allow the contents to be exploited in a wide variety of combinations." It allows
alphabetical location, searches by standardized descriptors, textual searches in biographies, chronological, geographical and disciplinary boundaries, by religious-cultural area and by sex.

double system

A double reference system allows all the characters to appear related to each other with various levels of contextualization. At the end of each biography is shown
the network of relationships of each biographyincorporating the characters mentioned in his biography and the biographies in which he appears.

"These links allow us to show the projection or footprint of a character in history through its impact on other biographies beyond its space-time coordinates," says Jaime Olmedo.

It is important to remember that the general user has
free and open access to this service through the website of the Royal Academy of History
(www.rah.es). are more than
60,000 accessible pages for scholars, researchers, specialists, students or the curious.

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