MIDDLEBURY, Vt. — This summer the Middlebury College Museum of Art features an exhibition of photography on loan from the George R. Rinhart Collection. “Many Thousand Gone” depicts the African American experience from mid-1800s slavery through the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s.

“It’s probably the most amazing and comprehensive collection of photography in private hands today,” says Richard Saunders about the Rinhart Collection, which contains hundreds of thousands of images. For the Middlebury exhibit, one hundred photos were culled for display.

Associate Professor of History Bill Hart co-curated the exhibition as part of his African American History course during the spring semester. Hart worked with students to research some of the photos, often without any identification of the photographer or date. Some of the students’ research work appears in the wall text for the exhibition. Hart says the research project was a creative way for students to deepen their understanding of some aspect of the African American past.

Hart organized the photographs into six themes, including slavery, reconstruction, World War I, the Harlem Renaissance, World War II era, and the Civil Rights Movement.

“These photographs represent, I think in a rich way, the full complexity and the full texture of the African American past from the early 19th century to the mid twentieth century,” said Hart.

The exhibition will run through August 9, 2015. For more information, visit the Middlebury College Museum of Art web site.

Story and video by Stephen Diehl