The Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University teaches, engages in, and presents documentary work grounded in collaborative partnerships and extended fieldwork that uses photography, film/video, audio, and narrative writing to capture and convey contemporary memory, life, and culture. The collection houses work created by students enrolled in documentary studies courses at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), sponsored by the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke. The student projects focus primarily on exploring and documenting the social lives and experiences of people living in and around rural and urban areas of Durham, Chatham, and Orange counties, North Carolina, through photography or oral history. Subjects include but are not limited to local school environments; churches and religious life; ethnic communities and neighborhoods; war veterans; the 9/11 attacks; the labor and civil rights movements as experienced by local individuals; students at Duke University; farmers and their families; immigrant life; migrant workers; beauty pageants; local music scenes; and the built environment and culture of North Carolina towns, and cities. Audiovisual materials include sound recordings and moving images, and may require reformatting before contents can be accessed. Acquired by the Archive of Documentary Arts at Duke University.
Collection houses photographs, interviews, essays, and other documentary works created by students enrolled in courses or thesis projects on documentary studies at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), from 1980 to 2011. Most of the student projects focus on the social life and customs of persons living in and around Durham, Chatham, and Orange counties, North Carolina. Themes include life in cities and towns, particularly in Durham; rural life; schools and other institutions such as churches and retirement homes, and charitable organizations such as soup kitchens and orphanages; community centers such as stores, daycares, and laundromats; African American communities and neighborhoods, particularly in Durham; beauty pageants; local music; farmers and their families; immigrant life; migrant workers; midwives; the 9/11 attacks in New York City; and Duke University students and campus life. One series of images portrays the Chuck Davis African American Dance Ensemble in Durham. Oral histories of N.C. civil rights and labor activists, American war veterans, and other individuals are associated with certain courses.
The majority of projects focus on Durham area locales, but other cities and towns in N.C. documented include Chapel Hill, Hillsborough, Raleigh, Seagrove, Wanchese, Cane Creek, Oxford, Carrboro, Orange Factory, Rougemont, Saxapahaw, Salisbury, Northside, Corinth, and Cedar Grove. There are a few projects based in Virginia, and summer projects located in Massachusetts, Tennessee, Tel-Aviv, and France.
The collection also includes a few grant-supported projects by professional documentarians Eric Green, Kate Rhodenbaugh, Carolina Wang, and Donna Lennard, and photographic work by Bill Bamberger, a faculty member at Duke.
Black-and-white prints make up the majority of formats, but there are also many slides. The more recent additions increasingly include oral histories on audio cassettes and CD-ROMS and other project-related digital media. These are marked in the folder descriptions. Original audiovisual and electronic media are closed to use and may require the production of use copies before they can be accessed.
The courses were all sponsored by the Center for Documentary Photography, which in 1989 changed its name to the Center for Documentary Studies. Among the faculty teaching courses for the Center for Documentary Studies are noted documentarians Bill Bamberger, John Biewen, David Cecelski, Alex Harris, and Margaret Sartor, some of whom have contributed their own documentary work to the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.
Acquired as part of the Archive of Documentary Arts at Duke University.