APPENDIX 3: “Supplemental” Digitization of Documents from Other Archives-Analysis of Results

As noted in the section on selection, the body of digitized documents include a sizable group of papers from the Archivo Histórico Nacional (AHN) and the Archivo General de Simancas (AGS). This is supplemental documentation concerning the administration of overseas territories, which, for one reason or another, failed to reach the Archivo General de Indias as ordered by King Carlos III1.

There were two main reasons for the decision to digitize these supplemental holdings as part of the AGI project. The first relates to King Carlos’ III original desire to bring together all materials “referring to the Indies.” In this connection, the completed operation has been of significant value, difficult to quantify but tracing an interesting path for the “reconstruction of the archival heritage.”2

The second aim of this operation has not yet been fully met. It was to incorporate other archival centers into the digitization process from the beginning, making two digital copies of the same papers (one for the AGI and the other for the archive holding the documents). As observed earlier in this report, the Ministry of Culture viewed computerization of the AGI as a pilot project for computerizing the other state historical archives.

Were these goals fulfilled? Only partially. The objective of supplementing AGI resources to make it, as King Carlos III had wished, an authentic “general archive” for papers about the Indies has been largely met by incorporating 2,189 new bundles in digital form.

But the aim of incorporating other major Spanish archival centers (particularly the AHN and the AGS) within the mainstream of new technologies has been only marginally accomplished (for example, the bundles digitized are not yet consulted in their own Reading Rooms).

What have been the results in terms of dissemination and conservation? Limited, because the holding from other archives appear to be of less interest to AGI researchers. Table 6 shows that digitized documentation from the Archivo Histórico Nacional and Archivo General de Simancas is very seldom consulted in the AGI. It accounts for less than 10 percent of total consultations by means of digital image, even though it represents more than 40 percent (see Table 7) of the total documents digitized.

These tables were based on the following data:

  • The Archivo General de Indias currently consists of 43,209 bundles of documents, of which 3,210-or 7.43 percent of the entire Archivo-have been digitized.
  • In addition, another 2,189 bundles from other centers (Archivo Histórico Nacional and Archivo General de Simancas) have been digitized (supplemental digitization).
  • Adding the total figures for bundles (43,209 and 2,189 = 45,398) and comparing them with the bundles digitized (3,210 and 2,189 = 5,399), we can estimate that 11.89 percent of the total holdings of the three archives have been digitized. This 11.89 percent is serving 31.16 percent of the consultations in 1997, an excellent result.
  • Of the total bundles digitized, those from the AGI account for 59 percent, while those from the AHN represent 31 percent and, from the AGS, 10 percent. In other words, the AGI has processed 59 percent as compared with 41 percent for the other two archives.
  • However, the portion of documents from AHN and AGS consulted through the system in recent years has been only 6.04 percent.

This makes an important point regarding selection for digitization. Decisions about which of AGI’ holdings should be digitized were based on an analysis of their use. This was not the case with documents from AHN or AGS. This drastically affects the results of system “use.” What might the results have been for consultation and conservation is such material had not been incorporated into the digitization process?

Table 6

Table 6. Consultations in the AGI Reading Room of digitized documents from the Archivo General de Indias, Archivo Histórico Nacional, and Archivo General de Simancas

Table 7

Table 7. Percentage of digitized documents by archive of origin


1 José María de la Peña y Cámara, “Cómo y porqué dejó de ser General el Archivo General de India. Cómo puede volver a serlo.” (How and why did the Archivo General de Indias cease to be general. How it can become so again), in Archivo Hispalense 207 and 208 (1985): 21-40.

2 See Pedro González García, “New Technology and the Reconstruction of the Archival Heritage,” in Proceedings of the XXX International Conference of the Round Table on Archives, Thessaloniki, 1994. (Dordrecht, The Netherlands: International Council on Archives, 1998), 125-29.