Digital Humanities: The Case Study of the National Library in Spain

Digital Humanities: The Case Study of the National Library in Spain

Enrique Wulff
Copyright: © 2025 |Pages: 19
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-6684-7366-5.ch052
Chapter PDF Download
Open access chapters are freely available for download


The National Library of Spain (NLS, Biblioteca Nacional de España [BNE]) for the target audience of digital humanities (DH), within the last two decades, has taken up major challenges to be into line with other main national libraries (France, The Netherlands, United Kingdom, Germany, and the Library of Congress). The chapter presents NLS's success in the emerging digital scholarship and BNElab Digital Humanities (DH) projects and digital editions (e.g., the Leonardo da Vinci Madrid I & II Codices or Quixote), demonstrating the most necessary steps of libraries to take in the digital age, especially when DH is forming the mainstream and obtaining momentum. The importance of the NLS and its patrimony is in line with its commendatory policy of collaborating with a wide variety of DH projects, and with that of making its digital patrimony freely available. Through a case study of the opening up of cultural heritage data for the arts and humanities (A&H), NLS is challenged from its Semantic Web vision to find the expertise required by the key issues of contemporary digital humanities.
Chapter Preview


Looking at topics of Digital Humanities (DH) and the current practice of the National Library of Spain (NLS, Biblioteca Nacional de España (BNE)), this chapter explores NLS as the shared infrastructure DH needs to achieve the most attractive, creative results. Researchers need downloadable and processable data as collections. This is a big challenge for NLS, which connects policy and daily practice. DH tasks, responsibilities and roles embrace infrastructures and interoperability in an environment where national licensing work is still evolving, a national hosting strategy is pending to be resolved in terms of subject-specific and interdisciplinary VREs, and legal frameworks should consider interoperability of the proposals made by NLS. Funding to improve and sustain pre-existing solutions is hard to come by also (Van Wyk, 2018). But the infrastructure to support open data is available and take the form of a trusted national repository platform where the formulation of data intensive research and the professionalization of data stewardship take place. Good research requires good data stewardship. This is why, within NLS, experts work together to put research data management on the DH agenda that ask for mutual national cooperation in Spain.

In this vision, the chapter seeks to answer the following research questions:

  • Why it's possible to conduct research in humanities with software at the National Library of Spain (NLS).

  • How the scholar engaged in humanities can easily incorporate data as it come from NLS pipelines for shared understanding of their research and disciplinary needs.

  • What are the ongoing collaboration projects in Digital Humanities (DH) involving NLS and engaging computer science specialists with humanities research and digital libraries.

  • How platforms of social participation inside the NLS ecosystem, provide an experimental test-bed for developing, exploring and exploiting DH infrastructure and content in ways that may benefit readers.

The chapter starts with a description of the digital infrastructure to support humanities available in the National Library of Spain (NLS) landscape. After the initial report of the technology standards to model and represent humanities documents (transcription, geo-referencing, identification or tagging, enrichment of the bibliographic catalogue and authorities), the first question of this paper is answered by clearly proving the pervasiveness of computers and research software in scholarly work at the NLS (Gómez-Pérez et al., 2013) (Hallo et al., 2016). Digital humanities scholars have at their disposal digital scholar editions and models of humanities documents; in this context, best known real cases are exposed.

To address the second question of the chapter, the amount of linked-data produced (or digitized), stored, explored, and analyzed in the NLS DH projects, and the possibilities and the limitations of digital access to textual cultural heritage (Sánchez-Nogales, 2019a) (Bosch et al., 2014) in NLS need to be assessed. Given the high volume of information provided by the institution (NLS), we adopted methods to profit from the tremendous opportunities for humanities researchers to dig relevant data from annual and special reports submitted by NLS to National and International Organizations. The study the NLS fluid relations between policy and practice associated with the research groups involved in DH, permit to compile a descriptive summary of the results of these individual studies in the current scientific literature. This estimate was cross-checked with data submitted from NLS to the CENL (Conference of European National Librarians). We also perform content analyses of diverse information sources (including DSHjournal, and DH Congresses and conferences). A fair amount of DH work is made by using data from Web Semantic and Linked Open Data communities, interest groups and specialists (Rico et al., 2019). This paper presents an analysis of the Linked and Open Data (LOD) and its underlying metadata schema created and presented through meaningful DH interfaces in the NLS (Tallerås, 2017)(Santos et al., 2015).

Complete Chapter List

Search this Book: