Taking notes and measurements in the field
As anyone even remotely connected to the field of archaeology can tell you, we record EVERYTHING. Note-taking and record-keeping is just as much a part of archaeology as the iconic trowel, perhaps even more so! Archaeologists must keep track of and record as much as possible at the dig site, everything from location, maps and diagrams, weather, time, spatial distribution, artifacts found, soil types, color, and stratigraphy (and even this list is nowhere near exhaustive). All of this seemingly excessive record-keeping is an effort by archaeologists to preserve what we are excavating as best as possible. Archaeology is a destructive discipline, and by that I mean, as we excavate, we destroy the very archaeological record we are seeking to understand, and because of that, it is absolutely crucial that we record as much as possible to be able to recreate and study the dig site after excavation. Good note keeping is also very helpful to anyone looking at and potentially working with a project in the future.
I spent much of the last semester learning the basics of GIS (Geographic Information Systems) as a volunteer with the Campus Archaeology Program. It was my job to go through field notebooks from past projects and field schools and enter all of the data into the GIS. Where the project took place, what was done (shovel test pits or excavation units), who was on the team, when the project happened, and whether or not artifacts were found all goes into the GIS, and my work rested entirely on the notes of past Campus Archaeologists, Field School assistants and attendees, and volunteers. Trying to match hand drawn maps to a physical location on a satellite image of campus takes some practice, and it can be even further complicated when two different maps from two separate people working on the same project contradict each other. Differences in the field journals of individuals all working on the same project made gathering a complete picture of the project and what went on very difficult at times. Often times though, I had to deal with the lack of recorded data, missing dates, STPs on the maps that had no data associated with them, and not knowing who was excavating. That resulted in a scramble through many additional notebooks from Field School students in hopes of finding the missing data. Piecing together past archaeological projects for present-day digitization is a lot like detective work and again, relies on the record-keeping of those involved in the project.
This summer, as part of the CAP survey team, I am again in charge of entering all of our projects into the GIS, and I can tell you first-hand that doing it immediately after a project you just participated in is a whole different story. Not only do you have memory of what went on and where, but being present also gives you some control over the record-keeping for the project, especially knowing that later it has to be entered into the computer. My task became so much easier working from projects that I had worked on within the few weeks prior. After seeing just how troublesome even a couple of small discrepancies in field notebooks can be, I definitely understand how important note taking is in the field, and that was just from doing GIS work, I can hardly imagine trying to study a past archaeological project that was the victim of poor record-keeping!
So for those aspiring to be archaeologists, I have one piece of advice for you: develop good and consistent note taking skills!
Michigan State University’s landscape is consistently changing. The area north of the Museum and west of Linton hall, known as the sacred space, is a great example of this. Although no buildings have been built within this space the changing of the roads from inside the space to outside the space was one of the major changes altering the size and appearance of campus. This change, which is suspected to have occurred in the late 1920s, is the focus of one of Campus Archaeology’s current investigations. What we are looking for is how the original road was laid within the sacred space in front of William’s Hall one of the first dorms.
Photo from the late 19th c of Williams Hall and the fountain, road and sidewalk in old positions can be seen, via MSU Masterplan
Preliminary investigations involved comparing archival data such as pictures and maps. We looked to compare the location of the road based on two structures: the fountain between Linton and Museum and the Museum itself, which is believed to stand directly on top of the old William’s Hall. You can see in the image below that the road was to the right and the sidewalk to the left. Today the sidewalk sits to the right of the fountain.
It was made clear that the road followed a curve from the west entrance of Linton Hall to the north side of the old William’s Hall via the north side of the fountain. This is drastically different from the roads and sidewalks we see today.
The old roadways of MSU, road goes within the Sacred Space and buildings whereas today it is on the outside of the buildings, via MSU Masterplan
To investigate the location of the road a test pit was dug in the green space 7 meters north of the northeast edge of the Museum. Recovered from this pit were multiple layers of road materials from a gravel layer followed by a layer large river rocks and a subsequent layer of chunks of granite (about 15 cm x 6 cm) and clay. As this was the expected location of the road the layers of road materials confirmed the location. Now we ask the broader questions: “What did this road look like?”, “How wide was it?”, “Where did it curve?”, and “What was it made of?”.
To further investigate we went back to the archives searching for pictures of the road to help identify its composition. Archival research showed that in the past a process called macadam was used in which “crushed stone surfaces, 6 to 10 inches thick, were merely bound by dirt and clay” (ASCE, 2013) As this older technique was widely used it is extremely possible the lowest granite and clay layer is campus’s old road.
Men laying a macadam road, via Highway Online
Today we open up a section to explore the layering of this area in hopes to answer these questions. If we find that this layer of granite and clay reaches out further we will be able to confirm this is the old macadam road and further test pit to see its boundaries.
American Society of Civil Engineers. 2013. “Macadam Roads”. http://www.asce-sf.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=252&Itemid=79 accessed 5/20/13
Morrill Hall on fire, Fire department attempts to stop it, photo by Bethany Slon
Casual Wednesday night, I was sitting at my friend’s house scrolling through twitter on my iPhone (can you say 21st century girl?) when I saw that the State News had tweeted that Morrill Hall was on fire. I was out of the door and on my way to Morrill faster than you can say that’s-my-favorite-building-on-campus. By the time I had gotten there the flames had been extinguished, but the top of the building continued to smoke, and the caution tape surrounding the area was enough to paper a whole library (that is, if books were made from caution tape). Luckily, as the building has been being prepped for demolition, no one was in the building when the fire started around 7pm, and no one was injured. The roof of the four-story building had fallen through all the way to the first floor, and as of the writing of this blog, the cause of the fire is yet to be determined.
Morrill Hall is, in fact, my favorite building on campus, and since doing research on it as an intern for Campus Archaeology in the fall of 2012, I’ve grown quite attached to it. If you’ve read any of my other blogs, you’ll already know that Morrill Hall was built in 1900 and was then called the Women’s Building. It was the first dormitory for the women of Michigan Agricultural College (later to become Michigan State University), and it included everything from bedrooms to culinary and woodshop classrooms to even a two-story gym. Eventually the amount of women enrolled in the college far exceeded the amount of dorm rooms available in the Women’s Building, and the name of the building was changed to Morrill Hall and the rooms were converted into offices and classrooms, most recently that of the English and History departments. The women were placed in other dorms, most in what are now called the West Circle dorms, but Morrill Hall continued to thrive through the use of professors and students.
Demolition at Morrill Hall beginning with the stairs, Photo by Katy Meyers
Unfortunately, Morrill is no longer what it used to be – one hundred and thirteen years has really taken its toll on the building. The floors are sagging and before the departments were moved to other locations on campus, professors had to line the walls with books to ensure that there was equalizing weight on the floors. In 1990 the ceiling of the first floor collapsed into the basement, and that was only the beginning of the building’s unfortunate demise. The ceilings leak, the ventilation is extremely poor, asbestos can be found around every corner, and the amount of bats that fly around the building when the sun goes down is enough to give anyone a spook. As far as the university could see, there was no other solution than to demolish the building, which was scheduled to happen early this June.
However, since the fire, demolition has been postponed. Until officials know what caused the flames, the building is being treated as a crime scene, meaning our work with Campus Archaeology on the Morrill Hall front is also postponed. Personally, I think it’s sort of fitting that some of Morrill’s last moments were spent on fire. Many of the other original buildings and dorms on campus have also gone up in flame; Williams Hall in 1919, Saint’s Rest in 1876, Old Botany Building in 1892, the original Engineering building in 1916, and the original Wells Hall in 1905.
Engineering Building on fire in 1916, via MSU Archives and Historical Records
Don’t get me wrong, it was incredibly sad to stand there and watch the beauty that is Morrill Hall smoke for over an hour, but it’s almost as if there was something bigger going on last night – a pattern of some sort that the campus continues to uphold. I realize that sounds sort of morbid and strange, but hey, there’s some truth in it.
If you’re in East Lansing for the summer, be sure to take a walk by the red-bricked building and say your last goodbyes. Morrill – you’ve held up strong for over a century, and we’ll sure be sad to see you go.
We’ve been out doing our first two weeks of excavation at Jenison Field House and within West Circle Drive. So far we’ve found a number of interesting artifacts including an old gin bottle from brooklyn and a layer of burnt bricks possibly related to the Old Williams Hall. Before we get too far into the season, here are some introductions to our summer team!
Bethany, Josh, Katie and Marie from right to left at Jenison Field House (Katy out of the frame because she was taking the photo!)
Katy Meyers: I have been the Campus Archaeologist for two years, and this will be my last summer in this position. Over the past two years heading up the CAP teams I have excavated across the campus, gotten to do a dig at the first dormitory at MSU (Saints Rest) and excavated the Morrill Boiler Building found under East Circle Drive. In addition to this, I am currently a 3rd year PhD graduate student in Anthropology at MSU, and my research focus is on bi-ritual cemeteries in the UK. I got my start in archaeology through video games like Tomb Raider, and summer trips to my parent’s cabin where I got the chance to run up and down a gully finding fossils and early 20th century artifacts from the early cabins in the area. While my research does focus on cemeteries and funerary processes, I have done work on a number of historic and prehistoric sites throughout the Midwest and Northeast. I have truly loved being part of Campus Archaeology because it allows me to add to the history of MSU, and help create connections between the current and past campus.
Katie Scharra: I am a recent graduate of Michigan State University. Originally, I began a program in Microbiology. After travelling during my sophomore and junior years to Europe and exploring different cultures I had a change of interests. I wanted to look for an academic program that took my interest in science and applied it more culturally. This brought me into the Anthropology department where I began to study mortuary archaeology. In the future, I would like to apply both my microbiology and anthropology degrees with a PhD in Bioarchaeology. In order to gain experience in field methods and to keep up my archaeology skills during my current gap year I joined the Campus Archaeology team. Over the past year, I have worked on a few digs across campus and worked with the artifacts. In the spring I was involved with cleaning and interpreting the artifacts recovered from the October 2012 excavation of Saint’s Rest, the first dormitory on campus. During this project, a partner and I organized the finds in to a classification based on use (i.e. home goods, school items, building materials). This allowed to us to have a look in to the more realistic lives of the first Spartans. We presented our findings and the 2013 University Undergraduate’s Research Forum. This summer I am looking forward to continuing investigation into the changing landscapes and lifestyles of campus.
Bethany Slon: I am an undergraduate student majoring in Anthropology, and this fall I will be starting my senior year at Michigan State University, anticipating graduation in December. I started working with Campus Archaeology in the summer of 2012 as a volunteer, and the following fall semester I began work as an intern under the direction of Dr. Goldstein and Katy Meyers. My research involved looking at the early years of the Women’s Building (now called Morrill Hall) and gathering information about the first female students who lived in this dorm. The MSU archives was very useful with my study; they provided me with scrapbooks made by the female residents of the Women’s Building, in addition to maps, photos, and plenty of other information. I eventually presented this information at the University Undergraduate Research and Arts Forum, linking it to Campus Archaeology and what the demolition of Morrill Hall means to us. This summer I am working again with Campus Archaeology, this time to monitor construction and make sure nothing of historical or archeological value is destroyed or missed. I eventually want to become a bioarchaeologist, specializing in Central American locations. I’ll be attending MSU’s Dr. Wrobel’s field school this summer in Belize, where I will be doing research on caries of the ancient Mayan population that used to live there, giving me both experience and knowledge I’ll need for the future. Graduate school is also in the plans for me, though where I’ll be going is yet to be decided. Archaeology has always been a passion of mine, and I am lucky to have found this experience with Campus Archaeology, both to broaden my skills as an archaeologist and to do what I love.
Josh Schnell: I am a freshman here at MSU, majoring in Anthropology and Religious Studies, with a specialization in Latin American Studies. I have been working with Campus Archaeology since February of 2013 when I began an internship learning how to use Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software in an archaeological context. This summer, as a member of the Campus Archaeology Survey Team I will be digging during and monitoring various construction projects to ensure our campus’ cultural heritage is not lost. I am an aspiring bioarchaeologist with a strong interest in mortuary practices, and I also volunteer in MSU’s bioarchaeology lab. A strong fascination with ancient cultures is what first drew me to archaeology as a potential career in middle school, and ever since then I have been dedicated to protecting, investigating, and educating others about our past. As President and Webmaster of the Undergraduate Anthropology Club at MSU, I have a strong interest in building a social foundation and creating an environment where other anthropology students can learn, collaborate, and help each other. I hope that through working with the Campus Archaeology Program this summer I will gain experience in conducting Cultural Resource Management work in the field, as well as expand upon general archaeological field skills.
Marie Schaefer: I come to the Campus Archeology Program from a more cultural anthropology background. However, I have always thought to be a good anthropologist you need to have a least a basic understanding of all the subfields of anthropology (cultural, archeological, linguistics, biological). This is especially true if you are going to be working with any Native American tribes or conducting any applied anthological projects in which you might be working with anthropologists and others from all different backgrounds. As a result, I have searched out opportunities to gain an understanding of the different perspectives of anthropology. After graduating from Eastern Michigan University with a BS in anthropology I went to Northern Arizona University for my masters where I had the opportunity to conduct a needs and asset assessment with Hopi women for the Hopi Cultural Preservation Office on why Hopi women’s traditional knowledge is not being passed down to the next generation and suggestions on how to stem the tide of this knowledge loss. Currently I am in the PhD program in anthropology at Michigan State University with a very applied focus to my work which focuses on how indigenous knowledge and Western scientific knowledge can be integrated in order to assist in the creation of sustainable futures for indigenous people. The CAP program offers me a unique opportunity to not only learn more about the amazing history of a land grant university but also to gain a deeper understanding of the work of anthropologists in order to serve as a bridge between tribes and archeologists.
This academic year has been enlightening and challenging for me. I dove into continuing a specific project that explores the heart of campus at MSU. I used archival evidence to glean the social, structural and spacial landscape of campus throughout the four time periods of the first 100 years of campus. Using scrapbooks, administration correspondence, and annual reports, I analyzed the changes in campus over time and how different buildings were used and how these buildings represent where MSU was developmentally and in social context with the rest of the state and country. For each time period, the spaces selected to represent the center of campus were: 1855-1870- College Hall and Saints’ Rest, 1870-1900- The Sacred Space, 1900-1925- Red Cedar River, and 1925-1955- Beaumont Tower.
Sabrina presenting the poster she created with Katy at the Graduate Academic conference in February 2013, via Katy Meyers
I was able to work with Katy Meyers to create a poster that outlined the archaeological and archival evidence for these choices and presented it at the Graduate Academic Conference here at MSU. The poster gathered attention and praise from various graduate students and visitors, and was judged very highly. It was a great way to allow others to visualize the expansion of campus over time and what events propagated the growth. It also invited viewers to chime in on where they experience the heart of campus today, which gleaned a variety of results, perhaps demonstrating that the diversity on campus may allow for several “hearts” of campus.
My next task is to sort through all of the data I submerged myself in and try to make sense of what these spaces say about MSU in general and how they indicate who we are today and where we are going. I will continue working on my final report that supplements a previous paper written by a CAP student and will expand on the poster we presented. I will also input all of the scrapbook data into our database, which will hopefully allow for future CAP fellows to easily survey the types of evidence housed in the archives.
Participating in Science Festival was another big project this year; I was able to be an ambassador for the archaeology program and Campus Archaeology to some young and ambitious junior high school students. It was invaluable to utilize that avenue to reach the community and inform them of all the things CAP is involved in on our historic campus. Hopefully events like this will draw more involvement from future students and community organizations in all of the important work we do.
I was lucky to be able to participate in surveys on campus, something I may never have been able to take part in. These really grounded me in a sense of place on campus which often times felt enormous and contributed to my analysis in my project.
Though I am not an archaeologist, this year provided me with diverse experiences and methodology that I can perhaps utilize in my future research, and all of the projects enriched my learning and graduate experience. I want to thank Dr. Goldstein for her guidance and vision as well as Katy for all of her support and ideas. It was a pleasure to work with you and each of the CAP fellows this year.
I spent my year working on the sustainability project with a specific focus on using University Archives materials to understand food and transportation on the historic campus. Through pamphlets, diaries, newspaper clippings, photos, reports, and ledgers, I pieced together information about early student experience in MSU’s beginning years. Much of the archives research required locating documents that were tangentially related to the project in order to track changes over time.
Two male students in dorm at Old Wells Hall, 1900, via MSU Archives and Historical Records
For instance, I looked through years of brochures from the early 1900s advertising the annual state farmers’ meetings held on campus. In each of these, food, housing, and transportation options for visitors would be listed. As the years went by, food options on campus expanded to include mentions of restaurants on Grand River Avenue. Boarding choices in the earlier years were limited to home stays or college dorms, whereas later years referenced hotels available on the trolley route from Lansing to East Lansing. Transportation prices rose slightly to accomodate, presumably, the growing dependence on trolley cars. From ledgers kept by the agriculture and dairy departments, it is possible to document changes in food prices (and demand for food types) through time. Fortunately, Dr. Manly Miles kept a thorough ledger noting all sales and expenditures for the agricultural college from 1867-1877.
I believe the most interesting finding was in the local and state reaction to the college in the early years. Since the university is so entrenched in the community now (and because I only have the experience of a modern student), I assumed that the college had always been supported by the local and state population. Through diaries and personal accounts, I learned that state farmers and government leaders had been quite wary of the institution, even at times hoping for and predicting its eventual downfall. The hard work of the early students and professors who split their time between academics and manual labor ensured the success of the college. As wars took their toll on college-aged men, the university adapted to national needs and supported the war effort.
The sustainability project has allowed me to pursue many leads at the University Archives, sometimes resulting in exponential research questions. As I try to reign it all in, I have found that the most relevant source material are personal accounts. Reading handwritten documents from MSU’s first students has been a thrill and I look forward to continuing this project.
Day of DH Logo, via MATRIX
The Day of DH is a national celebration of the range and variety of people, projects, and groups involved in digital humanities (DH). This year the event is hosted by MSU’s own DH center: MATRIX: The Center for the Digital Humanities & Social Sciences. It is a community sourced online publication and project to bring together scholars interested in DH. This year, Day of DH is taking place today, April 8th. Participants answer questions about what digital humanists do, how they work together, and provides them a chance to document their activity on this one day.
You can follow along today by visiting dayofdh2013.matrix.msu.edu or through Twitter with the hashtag #dayofdh.
Campus Archaeology is going to be participating through the blog, facebook, and twitter, so make sure to follow us on our day of DH! We use a number of digital resources to aid in our research and surveys, but also to communicate with the broader public.
Today, in celebration of the Day of DH, we are going to be working on two projects that will aid with preserving the archaeological heritage of MSU. Our intern Josh is working on adding all our archaeological surveys and excavations to a geographic information system, and I will be working on updating our OMEKA museum website. Stay tuned for updates and photos on Twitter and Facebook throughout the day!
Update from our #DayofDH
8:00am EST: Good morning!
8:15am EST: Working with Katie to get one of the undergrad posters done for the upcoming UURAF, a symposium for undergrads to show off their research. Their poster is on classifying the Saints’ Rest material we excavated in the Fall. It is interesting to see all the artifacts and what they’ve learned from them. When we make posters, we actually use powerpoint to design them, and then save them as large PDFs. It is an easy way to make posters because it is drag and drop, and can be set to the specific large size of the poster.
8:56am EST: Finished with draft #1 of the poster.
9:45am EST: Last year, we designed an OMEKA museum site for Campus Archaeology. We haven’t fully used this program- partially because there is so much to do and partially because I still have problems sometimes making it work properly.
Today my goal is to finally add spatial data to the artifacts. This means assigning a geolocator (longitude and latitude) to every artifact we have online. Shouldn’t be too hard since many are located in the same area! Check out the progress here at campusunearthed.matrix.msu.edu/.
11:00am EST: I was able to update a dozen or so of the items on the OMEKA with their geolocation, and it seems to be working pretty well! In addition to this, Katie has been able to get the next draft of her poster done and added in some sweet photos of the Saints Rest collection from the 2012 excavation. However, if you want to see that work you’ll have to head over to the undergrad symposium this friday at the MAC Union!
Thinking about DH and CAP: Here at Campus Archaeology, digital tools are integrated into every stage of our workflow- it is inescapable, but in a good way. At every stage of the work we do there is a strong digital and analog component. Any dig we begin starts with research online and in the archives. We investigate GIS maps, both our own and the one created by the university’s Physical Plant so that we can prepare an excavation or survey plan. As we learn more about the work we are going to be doing, we share this information through social media and our blog. Once we are out in the field, we tweet and photograph everything that we are doing. When the dig in complete, we catalog every artifacts into a database, add the new excavation data to our GIS, and write up everything for our blog. It is incredible that even as a discipline so concerned with the past, our methods and techniques are constantly being updated with new technology. But what does this have to do with the digital humanities? If you followed along with others on their Day of DH, you know that it is an inclusive and highly varied field that is loosely based on the intersection between digital technology and humanities related disciplines. DH is exciting, not because it is finding new ways to display data or share information, but because it is based on values of innovation, engagement, and community interaction. We at Campus Archaeology are committed to these- we are always searching for ways to improve our research and better share our findings through new digital tools like OMEKA, we strive to engage with people on a number of both digital and analog levels through social media and engagement events, and we are dedicated to interacting with the MSU, East Lansing, and broader community interested in learning about and preserving history.
Carefully look at this map of MSU’s campus from the 1880′s.
1880′s Map of MSU, via MSU Archives and Historical Records
There is a dark black line running from East Grand River Road into the Sacred Space, and then it turns into a squiggly line that goes all the way into the Red Cedar River. That was once the brook that ran through the middle of campus. The dark line is a drainage system that was meant to aid in draining the swamps north of East Grand River Road. The little brook was important to keeping the swamp areas from flooding and also helped direct wastes into the Red Cedar River. Of course, today there is no brook running through the Sacred Space. So what happened to it? This is the question I’ve been trying to answer the past week. Thanks to Whitney from the MSU Archives and Historical Records I have a couple answers.
Bridge from Chemical Lab to Botany, 1884, via MSU Archives and Historical Records
Other than the brook being present on maps, it is mentioned in a few historical documents that help us determine where it was located and what happened. In Beal’s (1915) history of the Michigan Agricultural College, he notes that in 1877 they botanic gardens were created, and were located in a ravine northwest of the greenhouses (located once at the SW edge of the Library) and north of the Red Cedar on the banks of a brook. From the Michigan Board of Agriculture Report 1880, Beal reports that there was a footbridge that crossed this ravine from the Chemical Lab (which was located where the fountain in front of the Library currently is) to the Botany Lab (which was located just east of IM West). It was a fairly large bridge, 16 feet wide with five piers supporting it. Pictures of the bridge show that it was primarily meant for the ravine since the brook is barely visible. In 1884, when Abbot Hall was constructed (now the location of the Music Practice Building), it was determined that this bridge wasn’t sturdy enough. The soil removed from the basement of Abbot Hall was used to fill in the ravine where the bridge was, and the brook was directed through via cement drains. So now we know when the ravine was filled in by the roadways, but not when the brook vanished.
Small Bridge in the Botanical Gardens over a Brook, via MSU Archives and Historical Records
We know from both Beal (1915) and Darlington (1929) that the brook and river would often flood the gardens. From 1904 to 1910, Beal raised the level of the garden from four to five feet to prevent the high waters from destroying the garden. Beal (1915:254) wrote “Most perplexing of all, was the habit of the Cedar river in overflowing its banks and covering most of the garden with water, for three to seven days at a time and if this freshet occurred during the growing season, two or three hundred attractive plants are killed outright. To overcome this difficulty a section at a time during six years was raised from one foot to five feet or more.” Due to these alterations, “the brook now flows under ground through a cement tunnel for nearly four hundred feet” (Beal 1915:254). So we now know that the brook that once ran through the garden was still there, but was underground.
There are reports beginning in 1874 and 1890 that sewage from North campus often flowed through this ravine into the river. As the brook became more placed in culverts and drain pipes it further became used for sewage. In 1927, East Lansing determined that a proper sewer system needed to run through campus to prevent pollution. Alumni were up in arms according to various newspaper clippings since the sewer plan involved destruction of a portion of the Beal Gardens. A compromise was made, and it was decided that the new sewer system would run through the pipes of the old brook. By 1929, this plan was enacted, and the brook is no longer evident on campus maps or garden maps. According to Forsyth however, there are drain covers still evident in the gardens, and during periods snow melting the brook can be seen in that a green strip through the garden above the drain will melt first.
In the upcoming summer, construction will begin of West Circle Drive along the area that once was the ravine and bridge. During this, we hope we will be able to document this exactly what happened to the brook by examining the soil stratigraphy of this area!
Beal, WJ. 1915 History of the Michigan Agricultural College. MSU Archives UA 943. LD 3245.M28 B4
Darlington, HT. 1929 Letter to President Shaw Regarding the Beal Gardens. MSU Archives Beal Botanical Gardens 1925-1932. F 17. B 37. C UA 2.1.12
Thank you to MSU Archives for all their help!
I am still working on the sustainability project which seems to have generated endless research questions. As I try to reign it all in, I have been writing about a category that I have blandly termed “Student Life” in my draft. This is the catch-all portion for the interesting factoids I come across in the University Archives. Somehow I will assimilate this information into a working draft, but for now I will share what I have learned below:
In the early days of the college, all students attending the college were required to split their days between labor and academics (T. Gunson, 1940). Through manual labor in the gardens and farms, as well as clearing land for buildings and roads, the student body effectively constructed the foundations of the institution while receiving their education.
In 1871, student Henry Haigh reported a fee of $29.95 for boarding at Saint’s Rest. Haigh journaled about the atmosphere in the dining halls which were structured by assigned seating. He mentioned the presence of women in the halls, though the ratio of men to women was still quite unequal at this time.
Engineering Lab on Fire in 1916, via MSU Archives
During October 1871, the year of the Great Chicago Fire, there were numerous raging fires in the woods around the new campus and across Michigan. Students were dispatched to fight the blazes along with seminal faculty members, Dr. Miles and Dr. Kedzie. Many people lost their lives and homes, especially in the thumb region of the state, but the college was spared due to the management of the students and their vigilance against the fires. Drs. Miles and Kedzie would divide students into groups to battle the blazes through the night, a task compounded by the water shortage from an ongoing drought. Classes were largely cancelled for a week while students joined with neighboring farmers to keep watch over the advancement of the fires. Haigh noted that many students knew how to combat fires and dense smoke, having experience with managing agricultural lands on their family properties. (Sidenote: if anyone has any information about the fire outbreaks during this time period, please share! I am curious as to why there were so many fires in Michigan at this time, though I presume it is due to dry environment).
Faced with declining enrollment numbers, President Snyder (1896-1915) personally corresponded with potential students and advocated the incorporation of promotional literature and calendars into the college’s recruitment plans. As a result, student enrollment increased during his presidency (though the onset of World War I drew students to combat soon after he stepped down). President Snyder encouraged the training of women at the college through a series of short course programs. During his term, Snyder also helped initiate summer courses and railroad institutes. All of these programs lended the college credibility in the eyes of the state population, as MAC faculty members traveled to rural areas of Michigan to give lectures and perform demonstrations for farmers. In an effort to appear relevant and indispensible to the state, the college also enacted county extension programs.
Frank Kedzie, President of the college from 1916-1921 during the turbulent war years, resigned in the wake of weak post-war enrollment growth. A change in leadership was thought to be needed to reignite admissions, so leadership was passed to President Friday in 1921. Friday was an economist and agriculturalist hired to solve the issues stemming from the national war effort. State farmers were suffering during the post-WWI depression. During his administration, Friday endorsed more liberal education programs, allowing engineering students to pursue liberal arts courses in place of some more technical class requirements. President Friday spearheaded the effort to grant PhDs, with the first degree conferred in 1925.
You may have noticed that the area around Michigan Avenue from Harrison Road to East Grand River Road is completely covered with construction equipment, orange cones, and various people in neon yellow. In a half mile radius there are three different construction projects that are occurring, two of which will take part on portions of MSU’s campus. Over the next few months, Michigan Ave between Harrison and Grand River, the Beal Street Entrance to campus, and portions of West Circle Drive will be removed for various reasons. The construction began this week, and we were out there bright and early monday morning to discuss the projects and monitor the initial progress.
Tomorrow we will begin to survey one portion of the Michigan Ave project; the green space and sidewalks around the Beal Street Entrance to campus. During the survey we will be digging shovel tests so we can get a sample of what the area is like, and determine if it requires further archaeological investigation.
In order to determine the historic significance and potential of discovering archaeological sites, we first look at maps to see what has been located in this area and how it has changed over MSU’s history. A map drawn in 1959, but based on historic sources, recreates what the campus would have looked like in 1857 when it was first opened. We can see the area under investigation was forested, and the road that was present at the time appears quite similar in direction and pathway to the current road.
Map of Campus in 1857, dating to 1959, via MSU Archives and Historical Records
However, a map from 1870 shows that there was no road in this area, and that it was simply forest. This could mean that there was no large main road allowing access, perhaps a smaller path that didn’t warrant placement on the map, or that the 1959 reconstruction map of 1857 was incorrect about accessibility in this area. By the 1890′s though it is clear from maps that a road definitely exists in this area. More research needs to be done to determine what was actually in this area, how it has changed, and what we might possibly find. The survey will also help us determine what is in this area.
From historic sources, we know that this road would have led to Michigan Ave and Collegeville, a residential area founded in 1887 by Beal and Carpenter. As this area became more populated, this entrance under investigation would have been used more. By the 1920′s Collegeville was full of inhabitants. However- it appears the Beal Street Entrance area itself has been fairly vacant throughout history.
Feel free to come out to the site and visit us tomorrow! It may be a little cold, but the sunshine should help. We will be working at the site from about 8 to 10am, and would love some visitors!