Rutherfurd Living History Update – Search!

Here’s an update about the work I’ve been doing with Duke University’s DeWitt Wallace Center for Media and Democracy.

We’ve been working for the past couple of years on better ways to make temporal media – in this case the videos that make up Duke University’s Rutherfurd Living History website – more readily accessible.

The open source InSite publishing system we’ve built connects transcripts to videos at the sentence level, and the transcript and video appear on the screen at once. This allows viewers to use the transcript to navigate the video, and to use the browser text search to search the video (there are more details on the Interactive Transcripts page).

We’ve lately made several improvements to InSite’s search features to give viewers quick, detailed mental maps of the video.

Put a word or phrase in the search field under the video – for instance “action”, and you’ll see red dots appear on the video seek bar. This gives you a sense of how many hits there are and where they are distributed in the video. The terms are also highlighted in the transcript.

Search on Action in the Cory Booker interview shows hits as red dots in the seek bar and highlighted in text.


Try this yourself! Go to
and enter “action”, “kids” or  “expectations” into the search field below the video.

If there are also hits in the annotations, those will appear as yellow dots.

Interview-wide search for "Secret" shows hits with dots on the seek bar and highlighted in text.


This makes the interviews more powerful as a research tool, and it’s also useful for content creators who want to cross-link interviews. I’m also thinking this has potential to increase audience engagement and sharing because it’s kind of fun.

The site-wide search on the Living History site is also vastly improved. Put a term in the search box that appears on the top right of most pages and you’ll see how many hits there are on the site and by interview, and the hits include a line of context. Click on a hit and it will take you right to the hit in the video.

For an example that shows lots of hits go to http://livinghistory.sanford.duke.edu5 and search for “Vietnam” from any page.

A site-wide search for "Vietnam" turns up 390 hits across 12 files.


The collection-wide search lets you do the same thing but narrowed to a particular collection. The collection-wide search box appears below the collection description. Here’s the Vietnam search in the Voting Rights collection:

A search on "Vietnam" from within Civil Rights collection turns up one hit in the Daniel Blue interview.


This fine-grained level of searching video can be addicting. Try searching the Living History site for “telephone”, “circumstances”, or “attack”.