Video produced by StoryMineMediaScroll down to view other videos about CDS—CDS Courses: Continuing Education at the Center for Documentary Studies and Why Documentary Matters 


The Center for Documentary Studies is dedicated to capturing the reality of people’s diverse experiences in our complex culture. It reflects a commitment to documenting people’s daily struggles and to using varied approaches to understand the human condition. The Center will work hard at supporting such elusive and often-touted values as scholarship, literary skill, activism, and self-reflection.
—From the Center for Documentary Studies’ first brochure

Created in 1989 through an endowment from the Lyndhurst Foundation, the Center for Documentary Studies (CDS) at Duke University was the country’s first institution dedicated to documentary expression as a mode of inquiry and catalyst for social change. CDS is today the preeminent place to learn, make, and share documentary across all mediums—photography, film, video, writing, audio, experimental and new media—for people of all ages and backgrounds. We provide cutting-edge learning experiences; produce and support original work that connects life, learning, and art; and present work by artists who create new ways of seeing and understanding the human experience.

As a nonprofit affiliate of Duke, the Center for Documentary Studies is more than a traditional educational center. We combine 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.

CDS at a Glance

Undergraduate Education: 50 courses a year; 850 students enrolled
Continuing Education: Up to 100 onsite and online courses a year; 600 students enrolled
MFA in Experimental and Documentary Arts: Duke’s first MFA program, cofounded by CDS
Full Frame Documentary Film Festival: 100 films screened (1,900 submitted) to 14,000 attendees ($4M local impact) plus year-round programming
Exhibitions: 8,500 visitors a year; 150 exhibits shown to date
Audio/Radio: Millions of listeners for original stories on public radio; Scene on Radio podcast
Awards: 360 artists supported
Books: 235 artists published
Youth Programs: 1,000 K–12 students a year

Fellow nonprofit Student Action with Farmworkers (SAF) shares our building space and has partnered and collaborated with CDS for over twenty-five years. Blending advocacy with documentary expression, SAF is dedicated to working with young people to improve farmworkers’ lives.