At the end of March, I will be taking part in a session at the Society for American Archaeology Conference in Sacramento entitled “Blogging Archaeology”. The session is organized by Colleen Morgan, a graduate student at Berkeley, and the author of the blog “Middle Savagery“,…
Author: Terry Brock
This week, Campus Archaeology Director Lynne Goldstein and former Campus Archaeologist Terry Brock will be heading to Austin, Texas to take part in the Society for Historical Archaeology Annual Conference. This conference is held each year as an opportunity for archaeologists around the world to…
Today is my last day working as Campus Archaeologist. Being Campus Archaeologist at Michigan State University has been the most rewarding professional experience I have ever had. Two years ago, when Lynne Goldstein informed me that I had the job, I had no idea what to expect. It was the first time such a position had existed, and was a central component of the newly formed Campus Archaeology Program. Neither the program or position existed anywhere, let alone at MSU, so what I’d be doing was only partly understood. Some of the responsibilities were clear, others would be developed as we went on. Little did I know, it would be an experience that would help me discover more about myself, my home town, my university, and my future than most could ever ask for in a job.
I grew up in East Lansing. I graduated from East Lansing High School in 2000, and spent my childhood attending MSU football and basketball games, feeding ducks by the river, picnics in the park behind Student Services, summer baseball camps at College Field, and annual school field trips to the MSU Museum and Wharton Center. My father works here, my sister went to school here. I have always loved MSU. Little did I know that the opportunity to explore its past through its archaeology would deepen the love affair: holding this position has given me chance to gain a thorough understanding about why MSU is what it is. This is a great school, with a rich tradition in teaching, research, and community engagement, and that commitment has shaped how it looks and the type of education offered here. I am hopeful that more students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members learn about it and develop a greater appreciation for where it has come from. And I hope that it is the Campus Archaeology Program that leads the way.
The job itself is steeped in professional opportunities that I couldn’t have predicted. There is the obvious experience of conducting archaeological survey and excavations, the added benefit of co-directing my first field school, and learning about the process of doing Cultural Resource Management. What was unexpected was the amount of experience I gained in developing a fully functioning campus program focused on research, teaching, and engagement. I learned how to work with departments across campus, watched and learned about the inner workings of campus administration, learned about managing budgets, developed internships and mentored undergraduate interns, and interacted in new and exciting ways with the community. These experiences are going to follow me everywhere, and greatly inform who I am as an academic, researcher, and person. I have Lynne Goldstein to thank for the guidance, the wisdom, and the trust to let me be creative, take risks, and letting me be as involved as possible in every step of the development of this program. This blog, for example, in addition to the use of digital social media, are examples of risks that I was allowed to take. That sort of trust is rare in any boss, and I have had the good fortune of working with someone who gave me that freedom. Mentors are hard to come by, and Dr. Goldstein is one of a kind. I am lucky to have her in my corner.
The future for me will be in Williamsburg, Virginia, where I will be writing my dissertation on a slave plantation site in Southern Maryland. Leaving my home town is hard, but it won’t keep me entirely from Campus Archaeology. I will continue to work for the program as a researcher, converting many of the archaeological projects we have conducted over the past couple years into (hopefully) publishable articles, along with some other interesting engagement projects. I will continue to post here about all of these projects, so that you can continue to be involved in them. Chris Stawski, who has worked with our program as a field tech and teaching assistant for the past two years, will be taking over as Campus Archaeologist. A good friend of mine and a fellow graduate student in Anthropology, Chris will be bringing even more unique talents to the program…so stay tuned.
In closing, I’d like to thank everyone at the MSU Anthropology Department for their help and support, and all my fellow grad students who’ve been out digging with me: it has been so much fun. I’d like to give a huge thank you to the MSU Archives and Historical Collections for all of their help, energy, and expertise. They are an unknown treasure on this campus. I’d like to thank all the people across the university, from University Relations to the MSU Union to MSU Campus Planning who have taken beautiful photos, served delicious food to hungry archaeologists, and offered helpful insight and advice about our campus. An enormous thank you to the MSU Graduate School and Dean Klomparens, who provided the funding for the Campus Archaeologist experiment in so many stages: this has been a wonderful experience that is exemplary of what advanced graduate education at MSU is all about. I’d like to the thank every person who showed up to an excavation, asked a question, or followed us on Twitter or Facebook: our work and research is meaningless if we don’t have a community to share it with, so thank you for giving us a reason to do what we love. Most importantly, I’d like to thank MSU Physical Plant, particularly those of you on the ground who are at work before all of us making this campus a beautiful place to work and live. You’re appreciation for MSU’s past has allowed us to learn some amazing things, and it’s been a blast being out in the field with all of you making these discoveries together.
Thanks again, and Go Green!
After weeks of survey, getting used to working together,learning the note taking process, and getting to know the space, our field school students were ready to begin the next step of archaeological methods: opening up full scale excavation units. We opened up six units at in three spots…
Our second week of field school moved us from the Old MSC Power Plan to just west of Beaumont Tower, across West Circle Drive from the Library. Although we continued to dodge raindrops for the entire week, we managed to survey an enormous area in…
For students, first week of any field school is a process of getting your feet wet, getting to understand your surroundings, getting to know your crew mates, and starting to get a feel for how archaeology works. For the directors and supervisors, it’s a time to get to know the students strengths and weaknesses, understand how to work together, and how to best approach and teach a new group of eager diggers. This past week, our students went through two days of lecture, activities, and presentations about archaeological methods, MSU’s past, campus artifacts, mapping, and an introduction to the class website. We talked about shovel test pits, how to use your tongue to test to see if an artifact is bone, and how to take notes. By the end of those lectures, the students (and supervisors) were ready to dig.
Our first two days in the field were at the Shaw Lane Power Plant. The power plant, marked by the iconic “MSC” smokestack that stands next to Spartan Stadium, was built in 1948, a product of the rapidly expanding campus, which was growing exponentially due to the influx of GI Bill students from World War II. The original power plant, located in front of where the Hannah Administration building stood, could no longer handle the load necessary for the expanding campus. Coal arrived by train, which ran from the south, next to Spartan Stadium, over the Red Cedar River, and ran behind Olds Hall. The site of the Shaw Lane plant was chosen largely based on accessibility: it was built alongside these train tracks. The Shaw Lane Plant stopped burning coal in 1975, and has been abandoned for quite a while now.
Our objective for this small survey was twofold: first, to see what types of features may be associated with the power plant, and second, to provide an opportunity for the students to get to know each other and get a feel for how shovel test pit survey works. Our findings were as expected. We found coal. The quantities were heaviest along the west side of our survey area, closest to the Spartan Stadium parking lot. Additionally, we found a compact gravel surface and two railroad spikes (left) in this area, indicating that, if we conducted further excavations, there would be the remains of the old railroad bed.
In all, this was a fantastic first week. The students are energetic, and we managed to dodge much of the rain that threatened us. This week, we will be continuing survey on the west circle area of campus, which is the oldest part of MSU, dating back to 1855. We hope that you will keep following along here!
Get to know our students! Check out the rest of the blog posts from last week as they introduce themselves!
Whenever Campus Archaeology is alerted of a construction project on campus, we typically conduct what is called an archaeological survey to determine if there are any potential archaeological sites in the area. This is important because it gives us the opportunity to quickly examine a…
Over the past year, Campus Archaeology has had 6 undergraduate researchers work with our program in an official capacity. Each intern worked on a research project, ranging from site reports to archival research to investigating new forms of public engagement. This past Friday, Jennifer Allen, Patricia Cashen, Jeff Gepper, David Lewandowski, and Jamie Patrick Henry all presented papers or posters about their research projects at the MSU Undergraduate Research and Arts Forum. They were all well received, and we will begin this week to start showing you what they presented.
Of particular note, Jeff and Dan both were awarded with first prizes for their posters. Jeff worked with MSU Physical Plant and the MSU Archives to develop overlays of historical maps on the current maps, allowing us to better identify locations of structures that have been destroyed. Dan worked on examining the cache of bottles found underneath Brody Hall, developing a historical sequence for that space.
Over the next couple of months, we are planning on putting this research up on our website for you all to see. Congratulations again to our student researchers for all their hard work!