Preserving an Important Message of History through the use of Technology

Last Friday when Pamela Passman announced Seattle-based
nonprofit, Densho, as a winner of the Technology for Good contest sponsored  by Microsoft and TechSoup, she did so to a
packed house of local nonprofits who were eager to both share and learn about the
impact of technology on the “business” of social good.

As the applause subsided and the tweets flowed,
you could see the excitement beaming from the face of Densho’s Executive
Director, Tom Ikeda.

A former Microsoft employee, Tom Ikeda has dedicated his
life to building a permanent digital memory to teach the story of Japanese
Americans who were incarcerated during World War II. During World War II,
120,000 Japanese Americans, two-thirds American citizens, were removed from
their homes on the West Coast and incarcerated in ten detention facilities
located in desolate inland spots in the United States. These men, women, and
children were guilty of no crime, but were imprisoned behind barbed wires
because of their ancestry. Densho’s goals are to video-record oral history
interviews of camp survivors, preserve and organize these stories for future
generations, and widely share these stories across the country (and the world)
to bring attention to this important yet largely forgotten chapter in American


Tom Ikeda interviews Fred Hoshiyama to include his story in the Densho
video archives.

Choosing not to have a physical museum in order to keep its
costs low, Densho immediately recognized
the need to utilize technology for storing and organizing massive amounts of
digital data. To do this, Densho used a wide range of Microsoft Office solutions
to plan projects, produce interviews, and process the interviews.  They used SQL Server to organize the
interviews, and ASP.NET and Visual Studio made it possible for them to display
materials on the web.

(Please visit the site to view this video)

(Video)Microsoft Citizenship’s Nathan J. Peterson got a
chance to chat with Tom Ikeda directly after receiving the award for Densho

Tom Ikeda explained, “The ability of SQL Server to organize
our primary source materials was the foundation of our content strategy. SQL
Server organized meta data and kept track of tens of thousands of objects. When
the Japanese-American community wanted more stories preserved, the database
allowed easy expansion. When teachers wanted access to these materials, we used
ASP.NET and Visual Studio to create user friendly websites.”   

The result? Over 450 interviews, and 10,800 photos and
documents on its website, sharing to over 150,000 website visitors from all 50
states and 123 countries; “Our website usage grows every year” Tom explained, “By
using Microsoft products we’ve created an innovative system of collecting and
sharing historical materials that are recognized and appreciated by both
individuals and institutions.”

In 2010, C-SPAN searched Densho’s website and is now broadcasting dozens of
full interviews from its network and website. At a time when heritage
organizations face funding cuts, Densho’s funding grows 20% annually. Densho’s
efforts have effectively preserved an important piece of American history. We
believe their work with technology can inspire nonprofits around the world to
explore what technology can do to enhance your story, your effort, and your
mission of social good. It’s one of the reasons we donate our software to
nonprofits everywhere.  Make sure you are
taking advantage of the technology resources available to you for little to no
cost by visiting our technology
donations page

For more information about Densho, visit:

To see all Tech for Good contest submissions, visit


For more information on Microsoft’s Citizenship effort
please visit:

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