About the Duke Center for Documentary Studies

CDS House


Duke University’s Center for Documentary Studies (CDS) is a place to learn, make and share documentary work across all mediums — photography, film, video, writing, audio, experimental and new media. CDS provides cutting-edge learning experiences; produces and supports original work that connects life, learning and art; and presents work by artists who create new ways of seeing and understanding the human experience.

As a nonprofit education and arts organization affiliated with Duke, CDS is more than a traditional educational center. It combines the educational advantages of an internationally renowned institution with profound engagement in the wider world through the documentary arts, emphasizing the role of individual artists in contributing to society.

The Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, a program of the Center for Documentary Studies, is one of the world’s premiere showcases for nonfiction cinema. Renowned for its film curation, support for artists and vibrant atmosphere, Full Frame draws an international mix of attendees to Durham every spring. Over four days, the Academy Award®–qualifying festival screens close to a hundred films, hosts panels and parties, and fosters community among filmmakers, industry professionals and audience members.


The Center for Documentary Studies teaches, engages in, and presents documentary work grounded in collaborative partnerships and extended fieldwork that uses photography, film/video, audio, narrative writing, and experimental and new media to capture and convey contemporary memory, life and culture.

CDS values documentary work that balances community goals with individual artistic expression. CDS promotes documentary work that cultivates progressive change by amplifying voices, advancing human dignity, engendering respect among individuals, breaking down barriers to understanding and illuminating social injustices. CDS conducts its work for local, regional, national and international audiences.


Created in 1989 through an endowment from the Lyndhurst Foundation, CDS was the country’s first institution dedicated to documentary expression as a mode of inquiry and catalyst for social change. In 1994, CDS moved from its original location in downtown Durham to a renovated turn-of-the-century house in between Duke University’s east and west campuses.


The Lyndhurst House and a large three-story wing, the Bridges Building, are where the main activities of CDS take place. See directions.