Over the past few years various CAP fellows, including myself, have examined sustainability at MSU. In contrast to modern sustainability research, which has focused exclusively on the present and future, CAP has examined how past practices functioned and how these have changed over time. Through…
Author: Nicole Geske
You may also have seen some of the Campus Archaeology Program Fellows featured on MSU’s Snapchat story last week in which we were telling stories of MSU’s haunted past. These were clips from a preview our Apparitions and Archaeology Tour that we gave for MSU’s…
My goal for CAP for this semester is to continue to research sustainability in food practices at MSU. Previous blog posts have discussed some of these topics, including the role of women and the entire local community during World War II in programs such as Victory Gardens. These types of activities supplemented the community’s and MSU’s resources by providing local food that could be sold inexpensively or canned for future use. These acts and large-scale participation also encouraged a sense of community in itself, especially during a time of nation-wide stress.
World War II had other significant impacts on MSU’s campus; one of which was the depletion of male students who had left to serve in the war. Looking through course catalogues from the same time period, it is clear how large the impact was on the number of students enrolled in the college. For example, the class numbers listed for the 1942-43 year consisted of around 521 men and eight women in the agricultural department alone. These numbers dropped dramatically in the following academic year, with a total of 93 men and ten women enrolled in the agricultural department.
Because much of the work that was required for agricultural majors required not only laboratory work, but also manual labor, including farm and dairy work, this lack of enrollment, especially in the agricultural department, required alternative solutions to maintain these industries on campus and also across the nation. In order to keep up with demand for agricultural products, many institutions turned to women to fulfill these duties, much like what was also done for industrial needs (i.e. Rosie the Riveter).
Therefore, in addition to activities such as victory gardening, other programs were created that were aimed at supplementing the loss of male farm workers. One of these programs was the Women’s Land Army, which was established in the United States during WWI and was based on programs that were already in existence in other countries, such as in Great Britain. This national program consisted of women who replaced the male farm workers who had left to serve in the army. Interestingly, during WWII the program was headed by Florence Hall, a 1909 home economics graduate of MSU, who had taught school in Lansing, MI and worked at the Department of Agriculture under the Bureau of Dairy Industry after her graduation.
In order to support this effort, MSU offered a short course for women in order to train them to work in “dairy, poultry, and general farming”, which took place on campus during the fall of 1943. This course was “designed to give women opportunity to obtain good training to fit them for patriotic service in agriculture”. Instruction during the course consisted of a heavy workload of six days per week, six to eight hours per day for a total of four weeks. Women enrolled in the course learned many skills including care of animals, milking, making cheese, and use of machinery. The cost of the course, including room and board, was provided to the women enrolled.
Overall, this program had a dramatic effect on agricultural production during the war, while also demonstrating that women could efficiently work in the same types of industries that were typically attributed to men.
The M.A.C. Record; vol. 48, no. 03; May 1943
For more information about the Women’s Land Army and Florence Hall: https://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/1993/winter/landarmy.html
This May, the Campus Archaeology fellows will be presenting our research projects at the interdisciplinary Cultural Landscapes and Heritage Values conference held at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. The goal of this conference is to bring together scholars from multiple fields in order to discuss…
My previous posts this semester have focused on Campus Archaeology’s involvement in community and educational outreach and the pros and cons of these types of activities. Last Friday, members of Campus Archaeology gave an in-school presentation for MSU Science Festival at East Olive Elementary in…
For the past few months Amy Michael and I have been working on preparing an exhibit for Chittenden Hall, which is soon to be the home of the new Graduate School. This upcoming exhibit will highlight the origins of research at Michigan State University, with a focus on Laboratory Row.
The display in Chittenden Hall will feature artifacts and photographs of the early buildings of Laboratory Row, as well as of the students and faculty who occupied these structures. Located on the north side of campus, Laboratory Row contains some of the oldest buildings on campus; all pertaining to the College’s original research focus: agriculture. These buildings include Agriculture Hall, Cook Hall, Chittenden Hall, Eustace-Cole Hall, Marshall-Adams Hall, and Old Botany, all of which are on the State Register of Historic Places.
Research for this exhibit began with the University Archives in order to find historical documents and photographs that pertain to these buildings. Through the examination of these records we were able to find the history of the buildings, including their original uses and how their functions changed over time. Chitttenden Hall, specifically, was originally constructed in 1901 as to house the Dairy Department, which even received a commercial license to operate a dairy facility. The building later became home to the Forest Department, as the name on the frieze above the entrance suggests, until it was mostly vacated in the 1960s.
Campus Archaeology offers us a unique chance to pair MSU’s history with artifacts that have been found through archaeological operations on campus.
These artifacts are stored and curated and pertain to the activities that took place on the early campus. We now have the opportunity to put some of these objects on public display in order to teach the community about this important area, which represent some of the beginnings of research at MSU.
One goal of Campus Archaeology is to better understand MSU’s history, both academically and socially, and to disseminate this information. By placing this exhibit in the soon to be renovated Chittenden Hall, visitors of the Graduate School will be able to learn and better understand the history and transformation of Laboratory Row and how these buildings have impacted MSU’s long history of research.
This project has been a learning process for both Amy and me on how to prepare an exhibit. It has also taught us a lot about the history of campus that we otherwise would not have known. We encourage you to visit Chittenden Hall upon completion in order to learn more about these buildings and Campus Archaeology’s mission.
Campus Archaeology rarely enters the realm of documentary detail – we use MSU Archives extensively, but we are generally looking for documents and images that help us to better interpret the material remains we find. This week, we take a bit of an exception to…
As a new member of Campus Archaeology I have begun my research in the University Archives. Looking through the keepsakes of Irma Thompson with Amy Michael, one document specifically stood out to me: a booklet about the Themian Society. The booklet, published in 1922, commemorates…