Duke Digital Collections is excited to announce our newest digital collection: Duke Chapel Recordings!

 dukechapel

This digital collection consists of a selection of audio and video recordings from the extensive collection of Duke University Chapel recordings housed in the Duke University Archives, part of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.   The digital collection features 168 audio and video recordings from the chapel including sermons from notable African American and female preachers.  This project has been a fruitful collaboration between Duke Chapel, the Divinity School, the Rubenstein Library and of course the digital projects team in Duke University Libraries.  To learn more, visit the Devil’s Tale blog (the blog of the Rubenstein Library).

But wait, there’s more!

sermon video

Brenda Kirton speaks in this still from one of the Duke Chapel Recordings digital collection.

Fifteen of the recordings were digitized from VHS tapes and are available as video playable from within the digital collection.  These are our first digitized videos delivered via our own infrastructure. Our previous efforts have all relied on external platforms like YouTube, iTunes, and the Internet Archive to serve up the videos. While these tools are familiar to users, feature-rich, and built on a strong technological backbone, we have been intending for quite awhile to develop support for delivering digital video in-house.

When you view a video from the Duke Chapel Recordings, you’ll see a “poster frame” image of the featured speaker. Click the play button to begin (of course!) and the video will play within the page. Watching the videos is a “pseudo-streaming” or “progressive download” experience akin to YouTube. That is, you can start watching almost immediately, and you can click ahead to arbitrary points in the middle of the video at any time.  And while you might occasionally have to wait for things to buffer, videos should play smoothly on desktop, tablet, and smartphone devices, and can be easily enlarged to full-screen. Finally, there’s a Download link right below the video if you’d like to take the files with you.

Behind the scenes, we are using the robust JW Player tool, for which the Pro version was recently made available by site-license to the Duke community by our friends in the Office of Information Technology. JW Player is media player software that uses a combination of HTML5 video and Javascript. It can play video from a streaming server, but as in our case, it can also pseudo-stream video over HTTP via a standard web server. Using HTML5 video, the browser requests and receives only the chunks of the video file that it needs as it plays. Almost all of the major modern browsers support HTML5 video delivering H.264/AAC MP4 content (our video encoding of choice), and a peek at our use statistics indicates that more than 80% of our users visit our site with these browsers.  For the rest, JW Player renders a nearly identical media player using Adobe Flash.

We’re looking forward to hearing from our users and learning from our peers who are working with digital media to keep refining our approach.  We hope to make many more videos from our collections available in the near future.

Post authored by Sean Aery and Molly Bragg.

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