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



Photo Captions/Credits

Audio director John Biewen (standing, foreground) leads an event at CDS; photo by Alexa Dilworth.

Top left: Instructors Eric Barstow and RaMell Ross (right and 3d from right) with School of Doc students; photo by Michelle Benham. Bottom left: Students in an undergraduate course; photo by Christopher Sims. Top right: Dr. Ruth Westheimer (left) and Ask Dr. Ruth director Ryan White (right) at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival; photo by Ken A. Huth. Bottom right: Visitors in CDS’s main exhibitions gallery; photo by Whitney Baker.

Lyndhurst House, Center for Documentary Studies; photo by Whitney Baker.