Looking Back, Looking Forward

Looking Back, Looking Forward
Dr. Camp looking out at an archaeological site on MSU's campus wearing a hard hat and yellow vest.
Dr. Camp, Director of the MSU Campus Archaeology Program, photographed by Nick Schrader, IPF Visual Communications Manager. ©Nick Schrader, All Rights Reserved

Greetings!

For those of you just joining our blog for the first time, I am Dr. Camp, the Director of the MSU Campus Archaeology Program (CAP). I am entering my 5th year here at MSU, and my 13th teaching as a tenure track faculty member at a land grant university.

This past year and a half has been one filled with anxiety and challenges. We mourn all of the people lost to COVID and the substantial impact it has had on our lives.

While most of our campus was remote up until August 2021, CAP worked on construction projects during the pandemic to ensure the university remained in compliance with federal and state guidelines concerning below ground heritage.

We never stopped working.

In fact, this past year was one of the busiest for our program due to taking on a federal compliance project that involved campus, city, state, federal, and tribal agencies. We learned how to go through the Section 106 process with the aid of many on and off campus partners. This included assessing, mitigating, and monitoring the construction of a substantial bike pathway that transverses much of our beautiful campus. Our CAP fellows and staff spent the summer overseeing the project, laboring in the heat with masks on to keep each other safe.

The MSU Campus Archaeology Program (CAP) staff conducting shovel tests along the Red Cedar River as part of the Red Cedar Greenway bike path project, May 2021.

We also oversaw a substantial construction project at the beginning of the pandemic back in May 2020. The project lasted through August 2020. This project has resulted in several forthcoming publications and multiple public (online/remote) talks about our findings at conferences and at the MSU Science Festival in the spring of 2021. Artifacts from this construction site, which is located on Service Road, reveal campus life during the 1940s, 1950s, and early 1960s.

Children’s toys recovered by the MSU Campus Archaeology Program during the summer 2020 Service Road construction project.
A) Yellow plastic toy microscope; B) Celluloid squeaker doll likely made between 1940 and 1947 by the Irwin Corporation of New Hampshire; and C) Yellow plastic toy car likely manufactured by the Renwal Manufacturing Company dating from the 1940s to the mid-1950s.
Photographs taken by Autumn Painter, Campus Archaeologist from 2018 through the summer of 2020.

We oversaw a smaller, but equally important construction project involving the area known as Spartan Village, which is most recently used to house graduate students. Part of that property has been converted to build a new TechSmith building. After conducting substantial historical research on the property, we conducted a geophysical survey with the assistance of MSU alumni Dr. Duane Quates in the fall of 2020. We used Dr. Quates’ data to help inform test excavations on the site later during the 2020-2021 academic year. We monitored construction on the site this summer (2021), which revealed numerous artifacts and building foundations.

The MSU Campus Archaeology Program staff working at Spartan Village, the new location of TechSmith’s building. Summer 2021. Photographed by Nick Schrader, IPF Visual Communications Manager. ©Nick Schrader, All Rights Reserved

We also continue to be involved in tree plantings on campus to ensure dirt removed as part of their planting is screened for artifacts.

The MSU Campus Archaeology Program monitors tree plantings to ensure archaeological sites and artifacts are not disturbed.

We moved much of our traditionally in-person outreach to online formats, including a new digital tour of MSU’s historic Faculty Row and our annual Apparitions and Archaeology Haunted Tour.

Though our mission will remains clear – to protect and mitigate below ground resources on MSU’s campus while training students in archaeological research and public history – this year has also given us time and space to reflect upon what we have accomplished and what we would like to do for our community in the coming years. As we discussed in our blog last summer, we are working towards sharing more about the diverse communities who have lived and work on campus.

We have committed towards working closely with communities we have yet to serve in our surrounding region, but much of this work is on pause until we feel it is safe to do so. And while we have fallen short of some of our ambitious goals for this past year due to the burnt out, stress, and exhaustion that comes with living and working through a pandemic, we intend to keep them at the forefront of our planning for the coming years. We wish to work with the many communities who have resided on and owned MSU’s land and plan to develop policies that ensure proper consultation during construction projects.

I want to conclude by thanking all of our CAP staff and fellows for working so hard and learning to quickly adapt to in-flux new protocols during the COVID-19 pandemic. I also want to thank the many staff with whom we have worked this past year+ of a pandemic. I also want to thank the undergraduates who helped us this summer with cataloging amid still very stressful times. We appreciate the ongoing support for CAP.



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