Launched in July of 2012, the Japan Disasters Digital Archive (JDA) is an advanced search engine for materials from around the globe, building digital repositories about the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011. With the support of metaLAB and Center for Geographic Analysis at Harvard, the project seeks to collect, preserve, and make broadly accessible many forms of first-hand information and primary documentation of the events of March 11, 2011 and their aftermath. Through the archive, the project aims to provide a public space of information exchange, establish innovative means of organization, access, and integration of materials, and to contribute to teaching, research, and policy analysis both near term and in the future. But most of all, JDA hopes that the archive will serve as a site of shared memories and reflection for those most affected by these events and concerned about their consequences.
JDA actively encourages user submissions of resources such as websites, videos, and photographs, and user testimonials about personal experiences of the disasters and their aftermath. Its innovative map feature visualizes all materials that are tagged with geographic information in real time. And with the nature of sharing and exchanging of collections and presentations, JDA fosters new connections, both between items and among users. This network is ever-expanding, from a major organization that submits thousands of location- and direction-tagged photographs to fellow citizens who submit their family’s testimonial to historians who seek to understand the interaction of public and private actors in the relief effort. Thus, the archive is an interactive space that promotes, and indeed thrives on, user participation.