Project description

As a result of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), about 200.000 people went in exile and about 500,000 people died. One out of four of the latter are still victims of enforced or involuntary disappearance, which means their relatives do not know for sure where they died or disappeared, how or why, and where they are buried. The central database of casualties, the missing and the victims of reprisals during the Spanish Civil War and under the Franco Dictatorship has two main goals (1) help people have access to information and enable descendants to trace their family members. They usually spend years doing that, often to no avail. (2) give historians the possibility to research the data. It currently has over 228,000 files which are linked to documentary sources and archives. They have been obtained by (1) using data from archives which was publicly available, most often in a non reusable format (2) asking historians who have investigated repression in a certain area to share their data with us.We have also filed public information requests and the replies have not been satisfactory so far. In Spain there are 28 military archives plus many other types of archives: national, administrative, historical, municipal, medical, from the church, civil registries… There are documents about the Civil War in all of them and a central database with a global scope does not exist and is not planned. It has not been a priority. There is not even a database for the missing, which the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances has been requesting Spain to build for years.

What makes this project innovative?

The idea of creating a central database of casualties, the missing and victims of reprisals as a result of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) was first presented at the IV International Open Data Conference in Madrid in October 2016 under the name #GuerraCivil #Opendata [at the Data and Humanitarian Issues pannel, see youtube video]. It sprang from a multimedia project about the bombings in Barcelona I coordinated for the local TV station, which included a database of over 2000 casualties [see barcelonasotalesbombes link]What makes The central database of the Spanish Civil War and the Franco Dictatorship different is the fact that a journalist and a computer engineer set up Innovation and Human Rights as a non governmental organization after that Conference in 2016 to make the project real. With no funding except our own resources and our work, we reached agreements with Universities and gathered an interdisciplinary group of volunteers -journalists, historians, programmers- to collect, clean and put together the data while software was developed so that it would be easy for non-programmers to standardize, describe and add more and more new data to the central database before we launched it and once it was online. From the beginning we did everything in three languages: Catalan, Spanish in English. The Spanish Civil War had an impact internationally. Ours is a global project. The team mostly worked remote by using digital workspaces like slack, trello and googledrive, although we usually managed to meet in person once a week. The tecnologies used to build the database and a responsive website in all gadgets were: Java 1.8 programming, Spring Framework, MySql, Ubuntu 16.04, HTML5, NodeJS 6, CSS3 and JS ECMA7. For over a year, we focused on the fact that the problem we wanted to solve is access to information mostly by family members whose wound is still open and want to know about the dead or the missing or the victims of reprisals. That is why in the end, we launched a database that is so far searchable by name only. For the first time, we are bringing together structured data from different areas of Spain, from different types of archives -military, national, local,...- and from research done by historians. We also provide direct access to archives that keep the information as well as works and authors that have done the research. We managed to gather 228.000 records but this is only the beginning.

What was the impact of your project? How did you measure it?

As soon as we started to build the database, we gathered support from the Catalan Association of Archivists and Information Managers, who invited us to participate in two events. The Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona (CCCB) also helped by providing us with a space where to meet. As we were building the database, we contacted some historians who were enthusiastic about the project: they provided tips and data, and helped bring History students into our team. We also got in contact with several associations dedicated to the study of historical memory, people who were in search of their missing family members, others who had created a DNA bank to identify them.Tickets for the presentation at the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona (CCCB) the day the Central Database went online ran out ten days before the launch.The first fortnight the database received 20,000 queries. We were immediately included in the project History and Historical Memory online, which is part of Hispana and in Mapping Historical Dialogue, Institute for the Study of Human Rights, Columbia University, who have invited us to participate in a Conference.Both the Autonomous Government of Catalonia the Generalitat and the Barcelona Local Council included our project in their lists of resources. We got reviewed on Catalan television, radio and papers. An article was published on periodistas-es.com. We also got reviewed on datajournalism blog carlapedret.cat in English and on Radio France Internationale in French. What is most important for us is that since we launched the database online, we have been receiving feedback from private individuals who have found information about their family members and are sharing documents with us and offering their support. We have signed agreements with two universities who are ready to let us share their research as part of our database. We received a 3200 euro subsidy from the autonomous government of Catalonia to develop the online exhibition Summary Military Proceedings Against Women

Source and methodology

We researched by reading extensively online and offline, by speaking to researchers and people from memory associations -of which there is an incredible amount in Spain-. We often used social networks to contact them. Most of the data published so far, more than half of the 228,000 records, come from the Archivo General Militar de Guadalajara, which did a great job creating alphabetical indexes of the people whose documents they keep about the repression of the Franco Dictatorship: those who did forced labour between 1937 and 1945, those who were sent to prisons or to a concentration camp -of which 188 Javier Rodrigo has supplied documentary evidence-. Those indexes are on PDFs and posted online. They could not provide a reusable version but we cleaned them mostly using Tabula. The National Archive of Catalonia reached an agreement with the Military Archive that kept information about military proceedings between 1939 and 1975. As a result, they built a database and made it public after the Catalan Parliament approved the annulment of the political trials of the Franco regime in July 2017. Fortunately, those 70,000 records were published in excel. The rest of the datasets came from researching online and direct contact with authors and historians [see whole list under Authors on our home page, click on each to read description]. Size varies. The smallest comes from an academic article about a hospital train on which people were operated on near the Ebro battlefront. Another lists the names of over 700 women executed in Aragon [see whole list under Datasets on our home page, click on each to read description].We list datasets, authors and sources on the home page of our database. The dataset, author and sources information is accessible from each and every record included in the database. If the information comes from an archive, we provide details about how to contact them.

Technologies Used

The tecnologies used to build the database and a responsive website in all gadgets were: Java 1.8 programming, Spring Framework, MySql, Ubuntu 16.04, HTML5, NodeJS 6, CSS3 and JS ECMA7. To clean the data we used code, Tabula, Adobe and several online converters. The team mostly worked remote by using digital workspaces like slack, trello and googledrive, although we usually managed to meet in person once a week.

Project members

Guillermo BlascoCarla Ymbern Charlie NurseMiquel BlanesCarlos TerragaAdrià CosJúlia PerezMathieu BaijardDiana Fernanda VélezJavier Rueda

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