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The Archive of Documentary Arts is part of Duke University’s David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library. Its mission is to collect, promote, preserve, and provide access to audio, moving images, photography, and text from around the world related to the history of documentary arts.

The ADA works closely with the Center for Documentary Studies, Duke's MFA Program in Experimental & Documentary Arts, and the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival.


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News & Events

The Pretend Villages by Christopher Sims

The Pretend Villages, on view October 23, 2021 - March 20, 2022 (extended) in the Rubenstein Library Photography Gallery, documents the inhabitants and structures of imagined, fabricated Iraqi and Afghan villages on the training grounds of U.S. military bases. Christopher Sims photographed in these surprising and fantastical realms from 2005 to 2018 as U.S. wars abroad fluctuated in intensity. With this book, he presents an archival record of “enemy” village life that is as convincingly accurate and comically misdirected as it is mundane and nightmarish. Read more


We work to ensure collections are available and accessible to a diverse group of individuals. We strive to expand and strengthen avenues of access that are equitable and open. We balance this with the appropriate privacy restrictions. While we try to honor these limits requested by creators or donors of collections, we also seek to foster accountability and will conduct a through review of restrictions prior to accepting materials. We support teaching and access by campus users as well as welcome those that come from beyond our campus community.

A number of our collections are tagged with physical/technical restrictions due to the fragility of the original media, such as cassette tapes, 16mm film, and negatives among others. They are available to view either on the Digital Repository, or via use copies or digital copies in the Reading Room.

We recognize there are times when viewing the original media is warranted for research. In order to request access to the physical media or to inquire about any restrictions on collections in the Archive of Documentary Arts please email Caitlin Margaret Kelly, curator, at, or via phone at 919-681-7963, or you may reach out to J. Andrew Armacost, head of collection development for the Rubenstein Library.


Collection Awards

The deadline has passed for the 2021-2022 cycle. Please stay tuned for the annoucement of the awardees.

The Archive of Documentary Arts at Duke University’s David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library is accepting submissions for our 2021-2022 Collection Awards. This year we are seeking to award four submissions.

Theme for this cycle: Environmental injustice/Environmental racism

We welcome creators to interpret the theme in a way that highlights the strengths of their media and the art of storytelling rooted in the documentary tradition. Projects may tackle the subject matter broadly or through specificity of place and person. Documentary artists working within their own communities are encouraged to apply, and we are particularly interested in submissions by those underrepresented in the archive. Both contemporary and historical works are permitted.

Why should I apply?

The Archive of Documentary Arts is interested in work that curiously engages with the world and that is, “derived from an in-depth understanding of place, history, and the current situation, in concert with a personal relationship to the proposed work. Ultimately, the commitment is to use documentary expression to motivate the thinking and reflection of others.”