I started my new job as chair of the division of social and behavioral sciences at MacMurray College during the summer months. The division is housed in MacMurray Hall, a historic building built in 1928. One day, the janitor took me on a "tour" through the building, including the "rat labs" on the 4th floor of the building. To my amazement, it was like stepping back in time. The psychology department used labs to study behavior patterns, and much of the old equipment remains. I heard stories from colleagues about how students were fascinated if they could ever get a glimpse of the old equipment. I noticed under some of the old rat mazes were the names of students who constructed them.
Given some other recent renovations to the division's spaces, I envisioned converting an unused classroom into a "mini-museum" and needed lounge space for students. I decided to send an email to the alumni who constructed the rat mazes and ask if they wanted them returned or to make a donation to have their rat maze placed in the new "Rat Cage" renovated room. One response was returned by Dr. Doug Fife '65. Dr. Fife stated he was amazed the old equipment was still around, and that he was hired as the first rat lab assistant. His initial task was to remove the rats from the delivery boxes into the cages!
Thanks to a donation by Dr. Fife, the division was able to obtain materials to convert the room to a student lounge. Some of the old rat lab equipment is being displayed in the museum, as well as other treasures found in the many storage areas of old Mac Hall, such as a 1940's typewriter, a series of record albums to learn Spanish from the 1920's, Civil Defense cracker boxes from 1962, and other eccentric items for display. Dr. Fife and I have subsequently exchanged at least 20 emails, discussing the lab equipment, the purposes of the research, and just some good ol' stories about Mac students and the rat labs.