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Approved <hierarchicalGeographic> Proposal in MODS 3.6

November 20, 2014 -- MODS HierarchicalGeographic Proposal -- Approved


Specific Proposal


1.1    State and Province

<province> will be deprecated; <state> will be re-defined:

<state> includes first order political jurisdictions under countries, such as states, provinces, cantons, Länder, etc. regardless of what they are called in the particular country.

See Commentary and Examples:  1.

1.2    New Attributes to Indicate Place Types

Attributes @areaType, @regionType, and @sectionType will be defined for elements <area>, <region>, and <citySection>  respectively. These would of course be optional.

See Commentary and Examples:  2.

1.3    Indication of hierarchical level

Attribute @level will be defined for all place type elements to indicate hierarchical level. It would of course be optional.

See Commentary and Examples:  3.

1.4      Authority

The authority attributeGroup (authority, authorityURI, and valueURI)  will be added to all place type elements.

1.5    Places that no longer exist

Attribute @period will be defined. Its presence will indicate that the described entity once existed but no longer exists.  Its value would be a hint of when it existed (it could simply be a date).

See Commentary and Examples:  4.


Commentary and Examples


  1. The way MODS currently handles first level political jurisdictions -- i.e. first level below the country -- is not consistent. It was brought out that in the MARC 662 there is a subfield called "first order political jurisdiction". In MODS, both <state> and <province> are used for first order political jurisdictions depending upon what they're called in the particular country-- but the guidelines say the following:

<state> – Includes first order political divisions called states within a country, e.g. in U.S., Argentina, Italy. Use also for France département.

<province> – Includes first order political divisions called provinces within a country, e.g. in Canada.

So first order political divisions mostly go under <state> unless they're called <province>. And we're silent on what they call them in other countries.

The committee thinks it desirable to put all first order political divisions under one element. The term "first order political division" or "first order political jurisdiction" is rather unwieldy. So the proposal is to deprecate province and define <state> as all first order political jurisdictions.

  1. This replaces the earlier proposal to define new element <placeOther> and attribute @otherType, to accommodate other types of places that don't have their own element.  Instead,  group them together under <area>, <region> or  <citySection> as appropriate (area is used for non-jurisdictional places, region for jurisdictional,  and <citySection> may be used for either ) and indicate the place type with the corresponding attribute, @areaType,  @regionType, or @sectionType.

<citySection> for example is currently defined as:

<citySection>-- Name of a smaller unit within a populated place, e.g., neighborhoods, parks, or streets

Thus, citySection is a broad term that can be used without the @sectionType attribute, but if you want to designate a specific type of city section you  could say

<citySection sectionType="neighborhood" >

for formally established neighborhoods, or

            <citySection sectionType="street>".

Note that the use of "city" here doesn't preclude  towns.

<area> could take an @areaType attribute to accommodate some of those areas that have been suggested-- national parks, rivers, Indian reservation, etc.



            <country>United States</country>

            <state>Rhode Island</state>


            <citySection citySectiontype="neighborhood">Blackstone</citySection>


  1. When the level of elementA is less than the level of element, then elementA is higher in the hierarchy than element. It is recommended that levels begin with 1 and are consecutive, however this is not mandated. Levels could, for example, be 3 , 5, and 9.

There is no need for @level  for simple cases like the following where the hierarchy is easily inferred:

            <country>United States</country>

            <state>Rhode Island</state>


 But there are a few cases where @level would be useful:

  • The actual hierarchy of the existing place types for hierarchicalGeographic isn't always clear, and in some cases depends on the context.
  • It will be useful to be able to indicate that two places have the same level.
  • In cases where the same place type is supplied more than once, their levels relative to one-another are not always clear.



 To elaborate of the latter two points:

 Consider the following example, where Blackstone is a sub-neighborhood of East Side, in Providence.

            <country>United States</country>

            <state>Rhode Island</state>


         <citySection citySectiontype="neighborhood" level="1">East Side</ citySection >

      < citySection citySectiontype="neighborhood" level="2">Blackstone</ citySection >

 Another example, consider Massachusetts Avenue which runs through Lincoln Park within Capitol Hill in Washington DC. Say you want to identify that section of Mass Ave  within the park: 

           <state>District of Columbia</state>


            <citySection citySectionType ="neighborhood" level="1">Capitol Hill</ citySection>

            < citySection citySectionType =”park”  level="2">Lincoln Park</ citySection>    

          <citySection citySectionType =”street” level="2">Massachusetts Avenue</citySection>

Whenever the level is the same for two places the intersection is indicated. This example indicates the intersection of the two level 5 entities.  


  1. The following example indicates the portion of the Oregon Trail within Idaho that existed during the gold rush: 

           <state level="2">Idaho</state>

            <area  level="3"type="trail" period="gold rush">Oregon Trail</area>

Another Example:


            <country period=”1945-1990”>East Germany</country>

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