Title:Contextual Links and Non-Linear Narrative: A Virtual Rashomon
Authors:David Greenfield
Publication:MW2000: Museums and the Web 2000

The Skirball Cultural Center is currently in the midst of a major redesign of it's web site to transform it from being a simple electronic brochure to a more effective content-driven site. The purpose of the redesign is showcase the institution, and to add more dynamic content such as virtual exhibits, e-commerce, educational curriculum, research material and more. Although the redesign process is in itself quite interesting, there is one particular component of the site that uniquely address two of the principal strengths and functions of the world wide web- links and the collaborative process. The distinctive attribute for this web project that we are developing is the use of contextual links. Our goal is to propel the actual nature of the web by designing the framework for nonlinear narrative that utilizes a scheme of contextual links to the websites of other cultural museums. Most hyper-links follow a linear model where a user enters a site and selects a link (either text or an image) to navigate within the site or be taken to another, related site or web portal. Also, the main collaborations occurring between institutions usually relate to the sharing of technology, to linking to relevant content or for sharing on-line visitors. We are collaborating on interinstitutional content development This project can be described as a virtual "Rashomon" - the telling of similar narratives but told from different voices, and in our case, the stories of immigrant communities in America. The method for accomplishing this type narrative is that individual institutions develop websites about stories of their own specific communities and concurrently collaborate with other institutions about the interactions with other communities. The prototype being developed by the Skirball Cultural is the story of a Russian Jewish family that immigrated to Los Angeles in the 1920's. Within this particular narrative, there are anecdotes relating to the interactions and relationships with a family of Japanese immigrants whose story is being developed by the Japanese American National Museum. Everywhere there is a relationship between the two families, there is a hyper link between the two web sites that jumps directly to the correlated narrative within the partner institution's site. The prototype method for this virtual "Rashomon" uses a combination of straight fact and historical fiction to tell the individual stories about the "Gimovskys", the "Nakamuras", their relationships and shared experiences. Future plans include collaborations with other cultural centers and museums across the country, along with the development of educational curriculum for schools.