Guest Post Part 2 The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture is now open on the National Mall and represents a 100-year effort to establish a federal museum that explores African American life in in the United States. This blog discusses the …
Author: Blair Zaid
* Guest post by former CAP fellow Blair R. Zaid Hello! Recently I had the chance to visit the new museum and I wanted to share my thoughts with fellow archaeologists and the wider CAP community. I hope you enjoy it and please leave comments …
This blog post is a quick review of my work for this year as a CAP graduate fellow. I had two major projects, first investigating the presence of bath houses and privies in the Sacred Space and second researching Myrtle Craig (MSU 1907), the first black female graduate of MSU. These two projects shed some interesting light on Phase II of MSU’s history, a period of opportunities and challenges that affected the growth of MSU in the 20th century.
As it turns out, investigating the privies and bath houses of old campus is in fact, a dirty job. The archives at times reveal mundane quips about sanitation and at other times heated debates on the construction and maintenance of campus lavatories. Something that was seen as an after thought in the mid-19th century became the center of board meetings by the end of the century. The drama concerning who could have private wash rooms and bathrooms in their faculty home or office was quite startling. One spot in particular, between old Abbot hall and the armory, seemed to be a preferred location for bathing houses from at least 1870 until way into the 1930s. This archival project was informative as I dove into a different time period than my usual CAP activities. It allowed me to practice some of the essential tools of archival research; taking accurate and descriptive notes, outlines for necessary information, and a clear set of goals, lest you be terrible lost in the sea of potential projects! Hopefully this information will allow us to investigate this area and time period in a more strategic way to enhance our understanding of this important phase of MSU’s history.
During my investigations of Phase II I stumbled across archival materials about Myrtle Craig. This was just in time for Black History Month so I decided to dig a little deeper and see what connections we could find between her life on campus and what we already knew from CAP work. I began exploring the MSU archives for tidbits about life on campus and remembered that the early 1900s was a definite turning point for women in general. I consulted with Amy Michael as she has produced years of work on gender on campus to see how we could gain a deeper understanding of the complexities between race and gender on campus and what could the artifacts tell us about these complexities. As we stated in our earlier blogs, women were highly restricted to certain areas of campus, but when you had the federal laws of racial segregation, the limits and resources available to Myrtle were problematic to say the least. A chance encounter with Dr. Denise Maybank, Vice President for Student Affairs and Services, led to creating a display about Myrtle, race, and gender on campus for the Student Services building. With the addition of CAP intern Jasmine Smith, who has an interest in museum displays, we created a display that details the time line of Myrtle’s life on campus and the opportunities and challenges of the race and gender in the first decade of the 20th century. This project combined all of our strengths and produce a visualization of the early complex history between MSU and its African American student body.
This summer I will keep looking into bath houses on and around the Sacred Space and working with CAP excavations as needed. I look forward to learning more about Phase II, its impact on MSU and the push towards a more inclusive experience for Spartan country.
This is the second entry of a two-part blog by Blair Zaid and Amy Michael about Myrtle (Craig) Mowbray, one of the first African American graduates of State Agricultural College, now Michigan State University, and the climate and culture of college life in the first …
Last night was the first official CAP Cafe with a presentation by Dr. Jodi O’Gorman, chair of the MSU Department of Anthropology. We are excited to launch this series of public oriented lectures about some of the archaeology projects from our department and gather with archaeologists here in …
This week I went to a workshop at the MSU Library titled “Making a choropleth map with graduated symbols,” mainly because the only word I understood in the title was “map.” The workshop was led by Amanda Tickner, the GIS Librarian and knower of all things GIS (geographic information system). The workshop was mixed with geography students and GIS newbies and was thorough and slow enough to move along at a good pace. By the end of the workshop, I was confident that I too could make a choropleth map: “a map that uses differences in shading, coloring, or the placing of symbols within predefined areas to indicate the average values of a property or quantity in those area,”1 with graduated symbols: “A map with symbols that change in size according to the value of the attribute they represent. For example, denser populations might be represented by larger dots, or larger rivers by thicker lines”2.
So here are some basic things I learned about GIS for those of you are still unsure about it and what we can do with it. GIS is a visualization or analysis tool for spatial or geographic data. That is it. If you have some data that has spatial or geographic dimensions to it, for example something small scale like artifacts across a site or the ethnographic information for certain households within a neighborhood, then GIS may help you to visualize some of your data/information on a map. It also works for very large scale projects like showing specific sites across a country or, the workshop example, the distribution of residences with Masters of Arts degrees across Michigan.
There are two main software choices for GIS activities ARCGIS and QGIS. In the workshop I learned that they are both pretty much the same and can produce the same maps. ARCGIS is relatively expensive and is good if you need to make exceptional maps and for the most part has more power than you would probably need as an average user. QGIS on the other hand is free, open access, and will satisfy most if not all of your GIS needs. Also, QGIS runs on both MAC OS and Windows whereas you need additional software to run ARCGIS on a MAC. According to the workshop, QGIS is also much better than it was 5 years ago, so if you haven’t tried it in a few years, you might want to look at it again. There are a host of plugins (various extensions that can enhance your visualizations) that you can add to QGIS if you need specific features that may only be available on ARCGIS.
One of the coolest parts of creating interesting maps in GIS is obtaining the data sets. For most countries and even some localities a number of data sets are available through the internet for free or open access. You can also create your own data sets through a simple excel spreadsheet and import it into a GIS software. You can even combine these two types of data to create maps of your data with primary and secondary information. For example, some locations like MI have a surplus of free accessible information on their government website. If you collect data with a geographic component, you can add your new data to already present government data, like topography or median income, to help with your analysis.
So, if you find yourself near a GIS workshop here are a few definitions you might find helpful in creating a simple map:
Layer: “Conceptually, a layer is a slice or stratum of the geographic reality in a particular area, and is more or less equivalent to a legend item on a paper map.”5
Shapefile: “The shapefile format is a popular geospatial vector data format for geographic information system (GIS) software.”
Vector: “ Vector models are useful for storing data that has discrete boundaries, such as country borders, land parcels, and streets.”4
Bonus! Raster: “A spatial data model that defines space as an array of equally sized cells arranged in rows and columns, and composed of single or multiple bands. Each cell contains an attribute value and location coordinates. Unlike a vector structure, which stores coordinates explicitly, raster coordinates are contained in the ordering of the matrix. Groups of cells that share the same value represent the same type of geographic feature.”7
Stay tuned for the next installment from the second workshop titled “Georeferencing!”
Last semester I began a quest to create 3D renditions of some of our artifacts and display them ever so eloquently on the CAP website. As mentioned in my previous posts, I used 123D Catch, a free photogrammetry application that can be used right on your …
The identification and protection of cultural resources at the state level is crucial for managing prehistoric and historic heritage across the nation. Each state, as well as Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands has a State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), that oversees the analysis and identification of …
This semester Kate Frederick, the Campus Archaeologist, and I are working on a joint paper that explores how pre-historic Indigenous people used the landscape we currently know as campus. This project was inspired by Kate’s interest and knowledge about the 5000 year old prehistoric site on campus and my interest in incorporating multiple voices in the cultural heritage of MSU. We wanted to explore if the occupants of the prehistoric site organized their settlement in similar ways to how campus is currently laid out. For example, how did pre-historic people use what we understand as “the Sacred Space” or how did they use the river or old stream? Ultimately, we wish to assess changes and continuities to the landscape and incorporate that in how we understand the full history of our campus. We wish to contribute these findings to the conversations about the significance of preserving the Sacred Space and acknowledging Indigenous influences to our Spartan heritage.
In order to accomplish this task we began to gather archival and archaeological data on past Native American presence on present day campus. My first step was to contact the MI State Historical Preservation Office (SHPO) in the Michigan Library and Historical Center. The SHPO office then introduced my to the Royce Map collection for MI. At this point, I had never heard of them, so I had to do some digging to see what they were and how they may be useful to understand land use patterns pre-Campus. I started with a simple Google search that led me to the Library of Congress and the National Parks Service. Here is what they had to say.
Royce Maps, are named after Charles Royce, an 19th century researcher who set out to collect the information about land cessions of American Indian Nations from the year 1784 through 1894. His final report was completed in the 1890s and included the treaty and legislative information for the release of land across the country as well as maps designating boundaries of Native American tribes. The treaty and legislative information included dates of cession, Native Tribal affiliations, boundaries, as well as historical notes about circumstances and descriptions of the cessions. There are maps for all of the relevant States and the reports are digitized. Also, these reports are apart of the public domain so they are free and accessible to the public.
While these maps are rather late for our particular project goals, they may be able to help us to determine natural boundaries deemed significant by past peoples. For instance, the use of certain waterways as boundaries may have been a prominent feature for pre-historic Indigenous groups as well. Therefore the maps may point us in the direction of potential organizing strategies based on the environment. (see Map 1. Michigan: Indian Land Cessions in the United States, 1784-1894 United States Serial Set, Number 4015)
At first glance, I noticed some other aspects that may be relevant for historical archaeology in general. For instance they may be useful to understand the different strategies of land cessions used during the first 100 years of the US. Also, when coupled with more recent data, the maps may reveal shifting geo-social boundaries among Native Americans, particularly for those who stayed within the ceded territories.
I also see these maps as a source for African Diaspora archaeology as the additional information reveals patterns of internal dispersal of enslaved Africans. For example, the accompanying documentation describes how planters and others moved as a result of the cessions. Descriptions of which planters moved to which region, at times accompanied by hundreds of enslaved Africans, can show the transient nature of enslaved populations even once they arrived in the US and how this affected their identities over time.
All in all, these maps and reports seem to be a good resource for understanding 19th century land exchanges and mobility. While this is my first exposure to them, I am interested if you ever used them? Did you find them useful? I would love to hear more!
For more information visit these sites:
The Library of Congress, Indian Land Cessions: http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/amlaw/lwss-ilc.html
Reference to movement of enslaved persons: https://archive.org/stream/appraisalofroyce00kueh/appraisalofroyce00kueh_djvu.txt
This blog is a continuation of my previous post about 3-D images and artifacts. As I stated before user-friendly 3-D imaging can be very helpful for archaeologists, especially for those who work on sites were artifacts removal may not be available or even excess handling …