Ruth Mead; Class of 1912
One of the many interesting parts of archaeology is using what you find in the dirt to sort of map out the life that the people living before you had. Sometimes, you have to imagine a life completely different than the one you lead now (I mean, who ever thinks of Rome being delegated by a bunch of old guys with togas nowadays?) but here at campus archaeology we have the unique pleasure of discovering what the life was like for students, just like us, around the same age we have now, only a century or more ago.
The day we were introduced to the archives was the day I began to see just what was so interesting about living here in East Lansing. At first, it was fairly average, we saw the blueprint for College Hall (one of the oldest buildings on campus,) some correspondences to receive grants, and even some old pictures of students and campus life. But nothing prepared me for the scrapbooks of Ruth.
Ruth Mead was a student here on campus from 1908 to 1912, exactly 100 years after I started my own college career here at MSU. In looking through her scrapbooks, you get a wonderful glimpse of exactly what life was like for a woman at that time on campus. She was what you might call a social butterfly, part of several clubs, her scrapbook teeming with dance cards, stuffed with notes written to her to do this, or remind her of that, and she took a lot of pictures.
She graduated with a degree of Home Economics in 1912, and one year later married Clifford McKibbon (with whom she spent a lot of time dancing her last two years of college.) Her sister Alwyn graduated the same year as her, and also married around the same time. We know that she loved to kayak down the Red Cedar, that she was a great shot (with a bebe gun) and of course, that throughout her 4 years, she lived, ate, and did just about everything in “the coop” as Morill Hall was affectionately called.
If the great thing about the archives is that it allows you an intimate look at just one person’s journey through their college years, the great thing about archaeology is being able to find an object that was once used by that same person, or by people that were there at the same time. By being able to excavate on campus, we have a great opportunity to look for these things that have been lost to us for years, but when we retrieve them, they can rejoin our past.