The forced removal and detention of more than 120,000 Americans of Japanese ethnicity during WWII still represents one of the starkest examples of how our civil liberties in the United States can come under attack in times of war or distress. As the memories of those who lived it fade, the story is in danger of becoming distant, remote and, ultimately forgotten. Densho was founded to preserve those memories, primarily through the use of videotaped oral history testimonies from Japanese Americans.

In the course of that work, we began to collect photographs, documents and other primary source materials that provided context to the oral histories and enhanced our curriculum materials. As this body of digital objects grew larger and larger, it became clear that we needed a more comprehensive strategy for its preservation and stewardship. We also encountered other institutions doing work in Japanese American history who were facing similar problems both managing and providing access to these kinds of materials.

Simultaneously, we have experienced an increasing interest from our users for access to digitized content. Students and educators are looking for high-quality photos to use in projects and presentations. Researchers and historians want direct, convenient access to digitized documents and papers. Much of the content our users need is not readily available elsewhere or is subject to complicated and often expensive licensing requirements.

The Densho Digital Repository was developed in response to these challenges. Drawing on current standards and practices in the archival community, along with robust open-source technologies, we have built a platform and management processes that can provide for both long-term preservation and user-friendly access to the digital archives. Wherever possible, we have licensed or secured license from third-parties for the majority of materials in the repository to be offered under Creative Commons.

During the first phase, we partnered with four other institutions: Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation, the Japanese American Museum of San Jose, the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii and the Japanese American Museum of Oregon (formerly, "Oregon Nikkei Endowment"). The partner organizations have been provided with training and equipment, and are adding their digital collections to the repository. These initial partners have been joined by five others, the Japanese American National Museum and The Hawai'i Times Photo Archives Foundation, the Manzanar National Historic Site, the Friends of Minidoka, the California State Universities Japanese American History Digitization Project and the Pacific Citizen, official newspaper of the Japanese American Citizens' League. Our hope is that the Digital Repository will become a shared platform for even more organizations in our community.

Densho is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization based in Seattle, Washington. For more information, visit Densho.org


Manzanar National Historic Site

Japanese American Museum of Oregon

The Pacific Citizen

The Hawai'i Times Photo Archives Foundation

California State Universities Japanese American History Digitization Project

Friends of Minidoka

Support and funding

Special thanks to our technology partners, including Qumulo who provide the enterprise scale-out storage platform for the digital repository, and Internet Archive for the infrastructure to serve and preserve the oral histories. Thank you as well to the open-source software community, in particular the maintainers of Python, Django, Debian and Joey Hess for git-annex.

Major funding for the Densho Digital Repository is being provided by grants from the Japanese American Confinement Sites Grant Program, administered by the National Park Service.


This material is based upon work assisted by a grant from the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Department of the Interior.

This material received Federal financial assistance for the preservation and interpretation of U.S. confinement sites where Japanese Americans were detained during World War II. Under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the Age Discrimination Act of 1975, as amended, the U.S. Department of the Interior prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, disability or age in its federally funded assisted projects. If you believe you have been discriminated against in any program, activity, or facility as described above, or if you desire further information, please write to:

Office of Equal Opportunity
National Park Service
1849 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20240

Contact us

We are always interested in hearing your comments, suggestions and questions. You may contact us at:

Address: Densho, 1416 South Jackson St., Seattle, WA 98144, US
Phone: 206-320-0095
Email: [email protected]

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