Nasher Museum of Art

What is visual literacy and where is it at Duke?

Visual literacy is an increasingly important skill, and learning to think critically about images is an essential component of a 21st-century education. By providing the tools and experiences needed to perform effectively in this visual world, we empower students and scholars to search out their own answers.

The Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University is an interdisciplinary nexus and a laboratory where students and scholars can investigate, explore, and test knowledge. Confronted with a different kind of source material—image rather than text—viewers are challenged to look at concepts and issues in a new way.

Duke University Libraries provides access to world-class resources with significant holdings of images that can be accessed freely and a wealth of information about the many ways images are utilized and interpreted, both in the contemporary world, as well as historically.

Visual Literacy

The ability to recognize and understand ideas conveyed through visible actions or images (as pictures). (Merriam-Webster)

Visual literacy is the ability to find meaning in imagery. It involves a set of skills ranging from simple identification–naming what one sees–to complex interpretation on contextual, metaphoric and philosophical levels. . . . Visual literacy usually begins to develop as a viewer finds his/her own relative understanding of what s/he confronts, usually based on concrete and circumstantial evidence. It eventually involves considering the intentions of the maker, applying systems for thinking and rethinking one’s opinions, and acquiring a body of information to support conclusions and judgments. The expert will also express these understandings in a specialized vocabulary. – Philip Yenawine

Links to Expand Visual Literacy at Duke University

Visual Literacy
Franklin Humanities Institute
Visual Studies Initiative
Center for Documentary Studies
Arts of the Moving Image
MFA program in Experimental and Documentary Studies
Information Science + Information Studies (ISIS)
Duke Immersive Virtual Environment (DiVE)
Visualization & Interactive Systems
Data & Visualization Services Department

Additional Resources

International Visual Literacy Association
Association of College and Research Libraries Visual Literacy Competency Standards
Visual Literacy Bibliography PDF