Year End Wrap Up- Part II
This year my CAP work focused on completing the typology project and volunteering with community events.
The typology project which began with Bethany and I Fall 2012 was aimed at compiling a collection of artifacts that typified the kinds of things we would find on campus excavations. Given the wide range of activities that go on through the course of 100 years on a site like MSU, organizing a collection of 20th century school yard artifacts is sure to be a contribution to the field of historic archaeology among others. The final collection included over 100 artifacts that ranged from daily use; such as combs and medicinal bottles, to construction materials, railway materials, and of course tons bricks! After much work from all of us, the collection is now complete and is accessible to future CAP researchers.
Another staple of this year’s activities is that I volunteered at several of the CAP community events. These are always my favorite because no matter how smart I get, if I can’t explain my research to 5 year olds, I know that I need to get back to work! These events included MI Archaeology Day last October through MSU Science Festival activities with the Museum in April, I maximized these opportunities to get to know what are Mid-MI folks are interested in when it comes to archaeology and how to meet there needs.
My final project was a presentation at the El Shabazz Academy in Lansing, MI. The Shabazz Academy is a K-6 charter school of roughly 95% African American students. The goal of the school is to provide a curriculum that centers around developing a strong African American consciousness. This was a great project for me because my target archaeological audience is mainly people of color who have very little knowledge about or access to the digital world. I am interested in connecting these populations to the world of archaeology and how it can contribute to our communities and our sense of ourselves through face to face interactions.
One interesting element about the Shabazz Academy is that the students recite an affirmation that keeps them focused on becoming successful contributors to their society; while maintaining respect for their ancestors and their struggles of the past. Therefore while some basic archaeological concepts were foreign to them, they were able to define words like “ancestors” and discuss how ancestors are important to them. This part of their affirmation was a brilliant segue into the significance of archaeology. I believe that these are the minds that are most ripe for the strength that African American archaeology can provide to communities. This strength is not only the focus of my dual degree, but my own understanding of myself as an African American woman in the field. This presentation was a great way to end this year’s CAP activities because it reminded me of the importance of this type of work and renewed my strength and commitment to it!
From writing for public consumption to translating artifacts into an engaging story, my first year as a CAP fellow has taught me several new and useful skills.
My main project for the Spring semester was creating an exhibit for Chittenden Hall, which is undergoing renovations and will soon be home to the Graduate School. We wanted a way to disseminate our research and findings to the larger public, so we decided on an exhibit showcasing the University’s history through our artifacts.
I worked with Amy Michael, a fellow CAP Fellow, to research the history of Chittenden and the buildings of Laboratory Row. This research was conducted at the University Archives and consisted of documents and photographs pertaining to the area. We decided to focus our exhibit around the theme of “Origins of a Research University.” Using artifacts found on Laboratory Row (Chittenden, Cook, and Old Botany) we can supplement the archival research with CAP’s research. The exhibit will feature photographs and artifacts, as well as summaries of the history of these buildings.
Chittenden renovations are slated to be done by the end of the year, so be sure to stop by and learn a little more about CAP and the history of MSU.
My third year as a Campus Archaeology fellow was spent on various projects that allowed me to work in tandem with the University Archives. I continued my search for historical documentation of Michigan State University’s sustainable past, finding many items and photos of interest that will be incorporated into a larger research project for publication.
The connection with the University Archives also proved fruitful in other ways this year. I came across a numbers of memoirs and drawings kept by female students in the late 1800s and early 1900s that allowed a window into gender role and experiences on the early campus. Through discussions at weekly Campus Archaeology meetings, we formed an idea to use these historical documents as a case examples for building a predictive model for future excavations. It is exceedingly difficult to understand gendered space on campus through the excavations we have conducted this far due to the nature of the projects )i.e. excavations are guided often by construction schedules of the university at large). Creating a predictive model will allow for greater control and more nuanced research questions wherein CAP can contribute to the understanding of past experience on campus.
Finally, I was involved with the creation of an exhibit for Chittenden Hall. The exhibit, again drawing heavily on the University Archives and the materials excavated by CAP in previous years, focuses on the original buildings on Laboratory Row. We looked at the origins of a major research university through a historical and material lens to better understand the roots of Michigan State.