The Center for Documentary Studies (CDS) is an interdisciplinary educational organization affiliated with Duke University. It is dedicated to advancing documentary work that combines experience and creativity with education and community life. Founded in 1989, CDS connects the arts and humanities to fieldwork, drawing on photography, filmmaking, oral history, folklore, and writing as catalysts for education and change. DCS supports the active examination of contemporary society, the recognition of collaboration as central to documentary work, and the presentation of experiences that heighten our historical and cultural awareness. CDS achieves this through academic courses, research, oral history and other fieldwork, gallery and graveling exhibits, annual awards, book publishing, community-based projects, and public events. The center is involved in documentary projects at the local, state, national, and international levels.
Community-based documentary projects and programs are central to the center’s mission. One initiative, “Document Durham,” created opportunities for center staff to work with communities, organizations and artists from across Durham County through oral history projects, youth programs, continuing education, and folklife surveys. In another project, Barbara Lau, community programs director, curated an exhibit for the Greensboro Historical Museum based on ten years of research in the Cambodian Khmer community in Greensboro. In collaboration with the museum, she published an award-winning book, From Cambodia to Greensboro: Tracing the Journeys of New North Carolinians, which documents the exhibit and tells some of the stories of Cambodians now living in North Carolina.