Update on the Sustainability Project

Throughout the course of this semester, I will be writing up the results of my archival research as they pertain to the archaeological materials recovered by CAP. I expect to revisit the University Archives several more times to read through some older documents, but I plan to partly shift my focus to tracking down theses and dissertations written by past students about the MSU campus. Sylvia Deskaj, a CAP fellow, has started to compile these sources from the library collections. There are a number of detailed studies on topics such as traffic patterns, food consumption, and water management on the MSU campus that I believe could articulate well with my Archives research and the CAP collections. Rather than sharing more details from the Archives in this blog post, I decided to share the introduction for the sustainability paper that I will co-author with Dr. Goldstein and Jennifer Bengtson (former CAP fellow). I have divided the paper into the following sub-topics: transportation, agriculture/food, development of the college, development of East Lansing, war effort and community response, and daily student life/experiences. Below I have posted the introduction to the paper draft:

The goals of the Campus Archaeology Program (CAP) are to protect archaeological resources and disseminate information on cultural heritage at Michigan State University (MSU). Working with departments across the university to ensure proper mitigation and documentation of archaeological features, CAP is actively involved in the maintenance of the historical past on campus. Through the program, undergraduate and graduate students participate in research design, excavation, archival work, and historical research. Engaged scholarship and community interation are the primary foci of CAP, with staff members contributing to digital media accounts, developing public outreach programs, and presenting research in academic journals. For the purposes of research, CAP recognizes four historical periods: Period 1 (1855-1870), Period 2 (1870-1900), Period 3 (1900-1925), and Period 4 (1925-1955).

Long before the concept of sustainability was in vogue, MSU students and faculty regularly engaged in practices that would, by today’s standards and terminology, be considered sustainable. Using archaeological features and recovered material culture, CAP is in a unique position to document the efficacy of these practices by providing time depth and context to the evolution of the sustainability concept. Drawing upon archaeological data and archival documents, CAP presents a history of MSU’s “green” heritage. These sources can provide a culturally and temporally sensitive picture of how sustainable food and transportation practices were implemented and experienced by the campus community.

The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education defines sustainability as supporting “human and ecological health, social justice, secure livelihoods, and a better world for all generations” (aashe.org). We take a similarly broad view of the concept and adapt it furhter to account for the ways that attitudes toward food and transportation reflect the socioeconomic concerns of the four specific historical periods in question. For this paper, we define sustainability as the capacity of the University to preserve and optimize food and transportation systems under changing socioeconomic conditions, contextualized through integrating historical perceptions of the urgency of environmental, economic, social, political, and health concerns.

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