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Library Response to COVID-19
Portrait of Thomas Yahkub
Photograph portrait of Thomas Yahkub, a Middlebury student, 1925

While social distancing at home these past weeks, our archivists unburied hundreds of Middlebury alumni portraits and made them available online.

Buried photos? Well, not exactly. Normally, we interact every day with thousands of photographs, all of them deftly organized. But, we’re not in the archives right now. And while nothing quite replaces tangible archival work, we’re feeling a lot less lonesome for our collections. Last week, 653 old portraits of college alum migrated online. You can find them all at archive.org.

Take Thomas Yakhub, above. Born in 1897 in Kerala, India, he spent a year in Middlebury before moving on to Harvard. In the 1930s, he studied in India with the famed poet Rabindranath Tagore (the first non-European to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature). Eventually, Yakhub returned to Vermont, where he founded the Asian Studies department at Goddard College.

Portrait of Charlotte May Johnson, Shanghai, China, circa 1904-1912
Portrait of Charlotte May Johnson, Shanghai, China, circa 1904-12

Then there’s Charlotte May Johnson, Class of 1901. Born in the small village of Jacksonville, Vermont, she became a science teacher and lived and worked in China for eight years. Along the way, she studied physics at Harvard and English at Columbia University before moving to the American West to become a school teacher in Colorado. She died there, at the age of 84.

There are so many more. For centuries, Middlebury students have led engaged, creative, and often gutsy lives. These portraits, depicting alum of the past, have made for good company.

If you find a face in our archive and it sparks your curiosity, contact us at specialcollections@middlebury.edu. We might be able to unbury details of their life for you.