This past summer, the Campus Archaeology program had the opportunity to offer a field school to archaeology students from MSU and across the state—our first field school since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. Directly taking part in ongoing CAP research into life in the …
First things first — Thanking our former Campus Archaeologist As we move into the new academic year and welcome a new set of CAP Fellows, we also say our farewells to Jeff Burnett, our outgoing Campus Archaeologist. Jeff oversaw the program in a challenging era, …
Summer in Michigan brings warm weather, thunderstorms, beach days and, for Campus Archaeology at least, shovel testing, construction monitoring, and CAP’s on campus field school. As we head into a new summer of Campus Archaeology we recap some of the great projects our impressive CAP fellows completed this year and introduce the 2022 field school, which starts Monday, May 23. But first, this year’s CAP Crew looks a bit different, other than Campus Archeologist Jeff Burnett, ever crew member is new to CAP. We also have a greater mix of first time archaeologist – we are bound to have an exciting summer as we learn how to protect and mitigate the cultural heritage of Michigan State’s historic campus. Meet the 2022 CAP Crew: Jeff Burnett, Michael Collins, Emma Creamer, Jayli Husband, Gabrielle Moran-O’Dell, Spencer Phaneuf, Sydney Spaulding, Fatima Vega-Colon, and Thomas Yan.
We are excited to return to hosting an field school after several years of being prevented from doing so by Covid, providing a valuable opportunity to train undergraduates in various aspects of archaeolo›gical research. Continuing within our recent focus on university life in the mid-twentieth century–CAP’s 2022 field school is focused on investigating an area of campus overlapping with the post-war “Spartan City”–a section of campus that was transformed into a sprawling temporary housing area during MSU’s rapid expansion following World War II and the passage of the GI Bill, which provided educational and housing funding for returning veterans and their families.
Through archival research, oral histories, surveying, and excavation of this area of campus, field school students will contribute to ongoing research on this transformative era of MSU’s past while gaining valuable experience in research methodologies useful both within and beyond archaeology. Students will also work on cataloging and analyzing the backlog of materials from the Service Road landfill, designing thematically focused research projects on specific aspects of mid-century campus material culture.
Follow this link to learn about the amazing students attending the field school this year and stay tuned for updates throughout the summer!
In person outreach activities are slowly expanding in Michigan and this year CAP hosted our Apparitions and Archaeology Haunted Tour on campus, presented at Michigan Archaeology Day and MSU’s Science Festival, and created and distributed an artifact mystery quiz!
A core tenant of Campus Archaeology has been to share the cultural heritage of Michigan State with our MSU and Michigan communities whether they live in nearby or thousands of miles away. This year CAP Fellows Jack Biggs and Dr. Amber Plemons developed two walking tours of campus using Geochaching.com “Adventure Lab” tool. We were originally hesitant to utilize this program – it is a paid service and we were not sure if the one tour, five-location limit could work for our purposes. However, we have found that it is easy to built tours with the tool, the five-site limit encouraged us to make thematic tours, and the ability to tap into the gigantic geocaching community make Adventure Lab a useful, if not perfect tool for sharing MSU’s history and beautiful campus.
Find the adventure lab app by clicking this link or scanning the QR code to the right.
- Digging Up Dirt on MSU Student History that explores how students lived on campus throughout our rich history
- Walking Through MSU’s Culinary Past takes you through five locations where people in the past ate, cooked, and experimented with food.
Rhian Dunn and Aubree Marshall continued CAPs experimentation with Twine (https://twinery.org/) – an open-source tool for telling interactive, nonlinear stories. We have previously used Twine to create a tour of campus archaeology and a haunted tour of campus – focusing on storytelling as virtual self-guided tours. Our new Twine stories have different approaches:
- Introduction to archaeology is designed as a teaching tool to introduce audiences basic archaeological knowledge and skills – Dive in and learn more about Archaeology! https://campusarch.msu.edu/twine/intro_archaeology/
- Spartan Village is in the style of classic choose-your-own-adventure stories. So if you have you ever wondered what it would be like to be an archaeologist? As the lead archaeologist, you have the power to choose your crew’s next move! https://campusarch.msu.edu/twine/spartan_village/
Research, Conferences, and Publications
Other CAP projects are more behind the scenes – researching topics and writing for professional and public audiences. CAP published on campus archaeology in the Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Record newsletter and Dr. Camp guest-edited and wrote the introduction to the newsletter.
This year CAP fellows also presented at conferences. For the Midwest Archaeological Conference hosted by MSU, Rhian Dunn, Aubree Marshall, and Emily Milton presented a poster for on CAP’s digital outreach during the COVID-19 pandemic entitled, “Armchair Outreach: Campus Archaeology Program During a Pandemic”.
Other research explored the history of Spartan City – a temporary housing community, active from the mid-1940s – early 1960s, that housed World War 2 veterans and their families at Michigan State. Ben Akey and Aubree Marshall wrote blogs on this topic and CAP presented on the history and material culture (cosmetics, toiletries, and ceramics) of Spartan City for the 2022 Society for Historical Archaeology Conference (https://youtu.be/XVp73Ec3CKU). This site will be the location of the upcoming 2022 field school and we are excited to see what more we can learn about this fascination community at MSU.
We had a wonderful year – if difficult – 2021-2022 and are looking forward to an exciting summer of archaeology, teaching, and learning! If you see CAP Crew or our field school, wave and stop to ask us questions!
While looking through the artifacts recovered from the 2020 Service Road project, the CAP crew found an interesting green glass bottle fragment. After further investigation, I found that this fragment was the remaining portion of a Sprite bottle made by the Chattanooga Glass Company (as …
It has been nearly 167 years since Michigan State University first opened its doors in 1855. Starting with only three buildings, five faculty members, and 63 male students, it has grown to encompass 5,192 acres and has over 50,000 students enrolled, making it the state’s largest public university. This expansion over the last 167 years seems almost exponential and it is important to understand the history of this growth and how its students have been represented, both historically and today.
Michigan State University has done some work towards this, with its Inclusive Heritage Timeline, which highlights the “making of a quality education for all.” In this timeline, Michigan State University specifically calls attention to milestones in inclusivity, including achievements in student enrollment, such as the first women, international, and African American students on campus. While it is important to recognize the achievements of students listed on this timeline, it is also important to recognize how this information is included and what information is not included.
Over the last year and a half, CAP fellows have begun to investigate this (in)visibility and history of diversity and inclusion on Michigan State University’s campus. Our blog on “Being and Belonging at State” looks at the lived experiences of African American students historically on campus, as well as the true experiences of William O. Thompson and Myrtle Craig beyond just their addition as a graduation statistic on the inclusivity timeline. Another blog, “International Students and Institutional Wares,” provides the same historical context for international students on campus in addition to exploring how our artifacts in the CAP collection can help us understand these students beyond just enrollment numbers. These blogs both provide a critical lens for the history of inclusivity on this campus, as well as explore how we at CAP can help unravel this history and better understand lives of all students – not just those in the majority.
In regard to what is not included in the Inclusivity Timeline, you may have noticed that recognition of Indigenous students is notably absent. The creation of the Native American Institute in 1981 is included and hailed for its collaboration “with tribes on research and educational initiatives,” yet there is no mention of the students at the receiving ends of these initiatives. In fact, there seem to be no records available period that mention the original enrollments of Indigenous students or the first Indigenous student graduates. Indeed, an intensive review of student enrollment at Michigan State University (via the Historical Enrollment and Term End Reports), revealed that the first official record of Indigenous students on campus was not until 1988, over 130 years after the university’s opening. While some of this stems from the fact that no ethnicity data was collected from students until 1988 (only their country of birth), it is surprising that there is no mention of these students in any digital or physical archives on campus before that point, including board meeting notes.
We know that Indigenous students have had a presence on campus, as courses on Indigenous peoples and cultures have been offered at Michigan State University since the 1960s (Krouse 2001) And that’s not to mention that there are more than 5 million Indigenous people in the United States and almost 100,000 Indigenous people who live in the state of Michigan (Center for Social Solutions 2020, Gupta 2020). Further confirmation of this comes from a single article in an April 1971 issue of the MSU News, one of the very few early records available that directly mention the presence of Indigenous students at Michigan State University. This paper features an interview with John Winchester, the coordinator of American Indian Affairs in the Center for Urban Affairs who specifically mentions low enrollment of Indigenous students at Michigan State University. In later years, as previously mentioned, the Native American Institute was established and was eventually followed by the creation of an undergraduate specialization in American Indian studies in 2001 (Krouse 2001, LeBeau 2002). Despite the creation of these courses, programs, and the undergraduate specialization, little is said about the students themselves. And nothing is said of the first Indigenous students on campus. It seems that this invisibility of Indigenous students ties into a much larger picture of Michigan State University and its position and continuous self-recognition as a pioneer land-grant university.
Land grant universities were created under the Morrill Act in 1862, an act which allocated 30,000 acres to each congressional representative for the purpose of establishing new agricultural colleges or providing the funds to expand existing ones (Nash 2019). This land was, of course, appropriated land from Indigenous peoples, which dispossessed those Indigenous communities, as well as encouraged more westward expansion, thereby continuing the pattern of disposition. Nash (2019) emphasizes the rhetoric of hailing land-grant universities for their “promotion of higher education and the rise of applied science,” while Indian dispossession is rarely the spotlight of the conversation. This lack of conversation diminishes the sacrifices of Indigenous people that enabled the creation of these universities and is in direct opposition to the goal of true inclusivity.
In terms of Michigan State University, any type of google search will likely produce results with some form of recognition as its standing as the first scientific agricultural college in the United States, which laid the ground work for future land-grant institutions under the Morrill Act in 1862. Although already established, Michigan State University still benefited and received land from the federal government in order to grow in size and enrollment. As of today, the Land-Grab University Project notes that Michigan State University has had a 41x return from the money raised from the Indigenous lands it was granted; while the United States paid $599,240 for the land, Michigan State University has raised $24,706,971. This incredible sum of money is one that original owners of the ceded land will never see.
And that’s without consideration that the land that Michigan State University was founded on was land already ceded in the 1819 Treaty of Saginaw. This one treaty totaled over four million acres in land and constituted nearly a third of today’s lower peninsula in Michigan. In fact, some of the only historic records of Indigenous peoples in the Michigan State University archives focus on the encampment along the Red Cedar River during the university’s first several years of operation. Therefore, even 36 years after the treaty, there is still a documented presence of Indigenous peoples in the Lansing region.
While, the Native American Institute and American Indian and Indigenous Studies program at Michigan State University have both published land acknowledgements in order to recognize, respect, and reaffirm the ongoing relationship between Indigenous peoples and the land, Michigan State University has not afforded the same visibility and inclusion to the history of Indigenous students on its campus. Even if we were to skip over on the absence of Indigenous students on the Inclusivity Timeline, enough of a message is presented by the nonexistence of these students in university records as a whole.
CAP prides itself in its efforts to understand the history of Michigan State University, the surrounding area, and its students. But archaeological data is not always available to aid us, as is the case with Indigenous students on campus. And, there is only so much archival research one can do if the records themselves do not exist. Michigan State University does not only have one story and it is important to understand and commemorate the untold stories of this campus.
Center for Social Solutions. 2020. A look back: Indigenous People’s Day. A Look Back (Blog) University of Michigan Center for Social Solutions. https://lsa.umich.edu/social-solutions/news-events/news/a-look-back/a-look-back–indigenous-people-s-day.html
Gupta, Meghanlata. 2020. Debunking 10 misconceptions about Michigan’s Native Americans. June 24, 2020, Bridge Michigan. https://www.bridgemi.com/guest-commentary/opinion-debunking-10-misconceptions-about-michigans-native-americans
Krouse SA. 2001. Critical mass and other crucial factors in a developing American Indian studies program. American Indian Quarterly 25(2):216-233.
LeBeau PR. 2002. “Realizing the Dreams” in four directions: The American Indian studies program at Michigan State University. Indigenous Nations Studies Journal 3(2):89-98.
Nash MA. 2019. Entangled pasts: Land-grant colleges and American Indian disposition. History of Education Quarterly 59(4):437-467.
During archaeological excavations, some of the most ubiquitous artifacts unearthed are ceramic sherds that were once part of bowls, plates, vases, or other decorative pieces. It is relatively easy to appreciate the skills and techniques that go into the creation of meticulously crafted ceramic vessels. …
A Salty Tale
I wanted this blog to be about patents, not Ruth Van Tellingen. Or should I call her Ruth Bendel? Or Ruth Elizabeth Thompson? I’m getting ahead of myself. Before we delve into Ruth’s life, let’s review the concept of patents as they pertain to archaeology.
As many know, a patent refers to a legally-recognized title on intellectual property that allows an individual or group to control the production and sale of specific designs. In the U.S. patents, as a legal concept, extend back to the late 1600s when some individual states would grant legal rights to an idea or invention. Federal interventions on designs and innovations were not introduced until The Patent Act of 1790. The registration number associated with a granted patent is often printed on items that become artifacts. These numbers provide a multi-tool for archaeological interpretations. With them, we can often identify a purpose or maker of an artifact and a period for the use and production of an item. Sometimes, patents allow us to discover unexpected insights into our social pasts.
The CAP Patent that Gave Paws
About a year ago, I was sitting in the CAP lab researching a ceramic bear. The item was uncovered during our 2020 Service Road Construction Project (read more here). We had plans to use the artifact in a conference presentation covering Children’s lives on MSU’s campus (read more here).
When searching the patent for the bear I found that it is not merely a decorative item, but rather a clever and original design for two interlocking condiment dispensers (salt, pepper, oil, etc.) (read more here). Something else caught my attention– something other than the unconventional nickname, “Huggers”. It was the title associated with the patent, filed on May 6th, 1947… The name belonged to… a woman?
Ruth Van Tellingen Bendel. Let me be clear. I was not surprised a woman had invented a new design or kindled an original concept. My eyebrows were raised because the idea was documented and credited to her. Archeologists, like anyone looking into the past, generally struggle to find and verify diversity in the past, especially when it comes to historically marginalized or oppressed groups. Without identifiers like patents, it can be difficult, if not impossible, to identify who created something. Objects themselves do not have social identities– humans assign them. And because restricted and privileged groups have historically held the pen that writes the Western narrative, many historical accounts overestimate the contributions of certain individuals to society. In the same stroke, the experiences of people outside of the most privileged circles have been silenced or ignored (1).
Woman with a Peppered Past
So what can we know about the creator of this patent? Ruth Elizabeth Thompson was born in Hinsdale, Illinois, in 1910. Census records tell us she married Oscar Van Tellingen, a salesman from Iowa, and assumed the role of a “Housewife and commercial artist” by the age of 30 (see census data below).
Her artistry, including several children’s books, received mixed reviews (2). While active in illustration, she also commissioned figurines created for the Chicago Royal China and Novelty Company (3), including the multiple Huggers in different animal forms. Her interlocking bear design was conceived in 1947, but not submitted for a patent until 1949. Our bear lacks the name “Bendel,” which Ruth added after her second marriage to Victor T. Bendel, in 1948. It is therefore likely one of the first bears off the production line.
Ruth’s shaker patent, granted in 1951, preceded the women’s liberation movement (4) in the United States by more than a decade. Women first patented a product in the U.S. in 1809, but as of 2020, the percentage of self-identified women contributing to annual patents remains less than 22% (5; 6). By the time she died in 1986, Ruth had acquired at least two more patents, several copyrights, and was listed as an author on multiple books. Between two CAP fellows, we found seven names associated with Ruth’s life. Even by today’s standards, her intellectual capital and enigmatic flair for unique titles would be considered remarkable.
Time to Shake It Up
Want to explore patents yourself? Here are two possible methods:
- To search patents through the U.S. government portal navigate to:
In the “Query” box type in the patent number.
For example, Ruth’s patent no. 2,560,755.
The landing page should provide a patent number and issue date. To view the scanned file, click “Images” at the bottom. Have in mind that most patents are a few pages long, so you’ll want to download more than the landing page of the PDF. It is also worthwhile to note that some patents may have a number in front of them, which indicates the type of patent represented.
- Google now offers a patent look-up that’s even easier:
Type in the name or number and anything affiliated with an individual should show. Between patents and copyrights, we found the following names associated with our Ruth to stamp her intellectual and artistic endeavors. Give ‘er a go and see what you find.
Ruth Elizabeth Thompson.
Ruth E. Van Tellingen.
Ruth Thompson Van Tellingen.
Ruth Van Tellingen Bendel.
Ruth V. Bendel.
Ruth Thompson Bendel.
- Trouillot, Michel-Rolph (1995) Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History. Beacon Press, Boston, Massachusetts. Link
When COVID hit our campus, CAP was forced to rethink how we perform our community outreach. We needed new, innovative ways to engage and educate the public without requiring them to meet in large groups. One of the ways we did this was to transition …