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Human Rights Archive - Teaching with Primary Sources

Subject Guide

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Patrick Stawski
David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
Duke University, Box 90185
Durham, NC 27708
Email me:
Call me:919-660-5823


Darrin Zammit Lupi photographsThe Rubenstein Library’s Human Rights Archive contains extensive primary sources on migration and displacement and how it shapes communities, families, and individuals’ lives. Collections include the historical records of non-government organizations who assist and advocate for migrants and refugees, art and journalistic photography, NGO and INGO publications and reports, as well as oral histories with migrants and refugees. Session I focuses on photojournalism, learning to analyze photographs, and exploring how migration is represented in the media.

This module was developed by Hannah Ontiveros, PhD Duke University Dept. of History 2021, and Patrick Stawski, Human Rights Archivist.

Learning Objectives

  • Analyze documents pertaining to migration in Northern Africa, the Middle East, and Europe.
  • Interpret photographic  images of migrants.
  • Identify key components of contemporary migration issues.

Contextual Readings

Suggested Reading

"Onboard SOS Mediterranee", SOS Mediterranee 

Between the Devil and the deep blue sea: Europe fails refugees and migrants in the central Mediterranean”, Amnesty International

"Photographing a Crisis", Magnum Photos.

"Media and Migration Reporting Guidelines", Ethical Journalism Network.

Additional Resources

"Malta Fact Sheet January-December 2020", United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)

Assignment Plan

Before class:

Have your students take a moment to read the Rubenstein Library’s approach to classes. It’s very short, but includes things students will want to keep in mind as they work with primary sources now and in the future.

Ask students to watch

Ask your students to examine the Darrin Zammit Lupi Photojournalism Archive collection guide:

Day of assignment:

Either individually or in groups, students will examine five pre-selected photographs from the Darrin Zammit Lupi Photojournalism collection (available below).  Students will then select two of these photographs and complete the Document Analysis Worksheet [downloadable from the box to the left of the screen] for the selected photos. (~10 minutes).

Students will then engage in some "slow looking" of the two photos guided by the following questions (~20 minutes):

  • Who do you see in the photograph?
  • What do you see happening in the photograph?
  • What emotions and expressions do you see on people’s faces?
  • What details do you notice? About the background? People’s clothing? The environment they’re in? anything else?
  • What do you think the photographer was trying to capture? What do you think he was trying to convey?

Next, students will share the results of their analysis and deep viewing and discuss these questions as a class (~30 minutes):

  • What were your general observations after looking at these documents?
  • What does it mean, how did it feel to undertake a "slow looking" of a photograph?
  • What questions do the documents raise about photojournalism in a crisis situation?
  • What did the documents tell you about migration? About human rights?
  • How might you use these documents to tell a broader story?
  • How do they fit in with or challenge what other sources tell us about migration, Mediterranean Sea crossings, or human rights?

Primary Sources

Darrin Zammit Lupi photographs from “On Board the Aquarius, December 2017”

The Darrin Zammit Lupi photojournalism archive comprises two bodies of documentary work. The second project, "On Board the MV Aquarius", comprises 20 color photographs and over 4000 supporting image files, documents, data, videos, news stories, and interviews compiled by Lupi inDecember, 2017, while on board the Aquarius, a migrant search and rescue ship operated by the non-profit organizations SOS Méditerranée and Médecins sans frontières; while there, he documented the rescue of 320 migrants on boats in the Mediterranean Sea, and their safe arrival in Pozzallo, Sicily.