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 history.

 

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.

(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: www.densho.org

To see all Tech for Good contest submissions, visit www.showyourimpact.org/microsoft

 

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

Microsoft.com/Citizenship

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