Big Changes Coming in MSU Campus Archaeology’s Future

The 2017-18 academic year will be a momentous one for MSU Campus Archaeology. We are now an established entity in the University with our own budget and clear goals, but as of May 2018, I (Lynne Goldstein) will be retiring from MSU, and the MSU Campus Archaeology Program will have a new Director and, hopefully, even more exciting and new directions.

Thanks to the assistance of Dean Rachel Croson of the College of Social Science, MSU has hired Dr. Stacey Camp as an Associate Professor of Anthropology who will become Director of the MSU Campus Archaeology Program in May 2018. We have the good fortune to be able to spend this year making sure that we have everything in good shape, and preparing Stacey for the details of running this unique program.

MSU has been extraordinarily generous and supportive of the Campus Archaeology Program, and I cannot thank the Administration enough for their vision in championing the program and providing both undergraduate and graduate students unique and important training and career opportunities.

The rest of this post is written by Stacey Camp, introducing herself to MSU Campus Archaeology Program supporters.

Lynne Goldstein

Dr. Stacey Camp

Dr. Stacey Camp, Associate Professor of Anthropology and future director of CAP

I am honored and excited to be joining Michigan State University as a faculty member in the Department of Anthropology and as the Director of the MSU Campus Archaeology Program. I appreciate the opportunity to shadow Dr. Goldstein to ensure continuity in the MSU Campus Archaeology Program. I come from the University of Idaho where I spent 9 years as a faculty member and close to 4 years as the director of one of three state repositories in Idaho.

I have admired the MSU Campus Archaeology Program’s work from afar for many years, attending sessions on the project at conferences, reading its blog, and following its Twitter account. I was attracted to the program because of my own research projects, which have foregrounded a publicly engaged approach to archaeology.

My research takes a comparative approach to understanding the lives of migrants inhabiting the late 19th and early 20th century Western United States. My first large-scale public archaeology project examined the lives and archaeology of Mexican migrant laborers and their families, which I blogged about on a now defunct website. My latest project looks at the archaeology of Japanese American prisoners incarcerated in a World War II internment camp, and has likewise been documented on the web.

One of things I have appreciated about the MSU Campus Archaeology Program is its innovative and creative approach to placing the history of higher education in Michigan into the public’s hands. Their recent historic “MSU dinner” and their ongoing partnership with the MSU Paranormal Society to offer historic haunted tours are just a few examples of this type of engagement. I look forward to collaborating with students, colleagues, and community partners on the MSU Campus Archaeology Program to continue to develop new strategies to push the boundaries of public archaeology at MSU.

Stacey Camp

CAP Interns: Where are they now Part II

Ryan Jelso

Ryan- holding a door knob he found during a CAP excavation

Ryan- holding a door knob he found during a CAP excavation

To be part of the Campus Archaeology team had been a goal of mine since my very first month on campus. I remember one of my professors taking out class on a walk to one of CAPs excavations and I found it really intriguing. As a busy college student, my time with Campus Archaeology would come four years later. I graduated in the summer of 2013 and was lucky enough to be part of the Summer Survey crew before I left campus. The time I spent with CAP helped me build a perspective on how important cultural heritage and public archaeology are to society.

As a double major, (Environmental Studies/Anthropology), my college years were spent trying to find a way to merge my two passions. After I graduated, this remained the case. I took some time off to organize my thoughts and aspirations, while also exploring career fields where both my interests would be involved. Currently, I will be starting a job as a Research Support Specialist with The Henry Ford. I will be working in the Benson Ford Research Center helping with the maintenance of their collections. My time with CAP definitely helped me obtain this position.

There are some similarities between my CAP experience and my new place of employment. As a museum, The Henry Ford’s collection captures the traditions and lifestyles surrounding American innovation. It explores the evolution of American industry. With CAP, we used the archaeological collection, as well as the archives, to gain a better understanding of the traditions and lifestyles that have taken place on MSU’s ever-evolving campus throughout the years. Also, I think another important CAP experience that has helped me get a job with a museum like The Henry Ford is CAP’s commitment to public outreach. With any major museum, public outreach is an extremely important skill/experience to have.

I am also part of a Graduate Certificate program in Forest Carbon Science at MSU. It looks at the relationship between forest management and climate change. I will hopefully be beginning a dual Master’s program in Fall 2015. I am interested in Natural Resource Management and Public Policy. Overall, my goals are to become a leader in the field of cultural and natural resource conservation. My time with CAP is fundamental to helping me achieve that goal. Lastly, learning about the history and working on the CRM projects through CAP allowed me to build a deeper connection to MSU.

Blogging Campus Archaeology: A Retrospective

This is the fourth post as part of the Blogging Archaeology Carnival hosted by Doug’s Archaeology. To learn more about this, please see our first post: Why do we blog?, our second post: The Good, Bad and Ugly, and our third post: Our Best Posts

This month, the question from Doug’s Archaeology for the carnival is a little bit different: there isn’t one. Instead, he proposes that we write on whatever we want to in relationship to blogging archaeology.

I’ve been blogging for Campus Archaeology since September 2010- that’s three and a half years of writing for the same organization as it developed and changed. When I first started, it was in my first year as a graduate student in MSU’s Department of Anthropology. I was working under the guidance of Campus Archaeologist, Chris Stawski, and had a number of projects focusing on GIS and public outreach. The following two years, I was the Campus Archaeologist and worked with a team of graduate and undergraduate students. This year, Kate Frederick is the Campus Archaeologist, and I’m continuing to work on the GIS and help with the accession of our artifacts. Over this time, its been interesting watching the blog develop and change from a medium for communicating dig locations and excavations, to a more robust forum for discussion and community sharing.

Campus Archaeology in June, 2009

Campus Archaeology in June, 2009

The blog on this website first started in March 2009 when the new Campus Archaeology website launched. Prior to that, the blog was held on the first Campus Archaeologist’s own website. The ‘new’ blog in 2009 began with posts primarily by Terry Brock that reviewed the basics of archaeology, as well as reviews and announcements of digs and surveys occurring on campus. A second author came on to write almost a year later in April 2010. Throughout this first period, the focus on the blog was informing the public about finds and upcoming digs.

Campus Archaeology September, 2012

Campus Archaeology September, 2012

Beginning in 2011, a team of graduate student fellows began publishing a variety of articles on the blog about their individual research into different aspects of Campus Archaeology and historic MSU. My own first post came on February 7, 2011 and was about developing a more robust GIS for Campus Archaeology. Looking back, its funny to see how my own individual writing and style has changed so much! While there was an increase in people blogging, the posts were only going up every couple weeks, or in response to digs occurring. In the Fall of 2011, blog posts started going up twice a week, undergraduate interns began posting on the main blog site (we integrated their posts instead of keeping them separate), and we had more graduate students involved.


Campus Archaeology June, 2013

Campus Archaeology June, 2013

Since starting the new site, there have been four different Campus Archaeologist’s sharing information on digs, surveys, and the work occurring within the program, 13 different graduate fellows sharing their research projects and updates from the field, 15 undergraduate interns who are writing about their archival work, individual projects, and experiences learning archaeology through doing. We’ve had an amazing range of posts that show the importance of archaeology, especially to the university. Blogging isn’t just about sharing our work; it is an important part of learning to communicate complex archaeological concepts to a non-specialist audience.

Campus Archaeology began as a blog that shared archaeological excavations and skills. While that continues to be a focus of our work, readers can now see the full range of work that archaeologists do, from the hours spent in archives before the dig to the hours spent analyzing artifacts and digitizing maps after the dig. As new people join each semester, the foci change, the research shifts, and the blog changes. It will be interesting to watch it continue to develop and grow.

A comment from Lynne Goldstein, Director of Campus Archaeology: It has been amazingly rewarding to watch Campus Archaeology develop over time, expanding its range, participants, and audience. I don’t blog very often, but, from the beginning, I am always watching and monitoring what we do and how we do it. One of our goals is to develop a strong and innovative program here and to serve as an example for other campuses who want to try and do something similar to what we have been able to accomplish. We look forward  to the future of the past!

Beal Street Entrance Construction and Survey

Construction and survey area

Construction and survey area

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!

The Old Botany Greenhouses

The Old Botany Greenhouse, North Side, Photo by CAPMSU

When I arrived to work last week, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that we would be surveying the old Botany Greenhouses, particularly since I’ve walked by them for several years and, in passing, have always wondering about it’s “story.”  The old Botany Greenhouses are slated for demolition sometime around January 2013.  This complex consists of two greenhouses (one of which has already been torn down) and one headhouse and is located east of Old Botany and next to Lot 7 in the north academic district.

Why are the buildings being torn down?  According to Physical Plant, the structures are relatively aged (~81 – 100 years old) and, because of safety hazards, were deemed to be unsafe and, as a result, are no longer in use.

Why are we documenting and mapping it? Once the building is razed it will be a green space. If future archaeologists survey or excavate here we need to have a record of what was there. The greenhouses had a number of ponds and an interesting landscape that could be confusing if future archaeologists were to dig it up without a reference.

Taking Measurements and Documenting the Site, Photo by CAPMSU

At first glance, from the outside, the greenhouse looked run-down, abandoned, and decrepit.  Once we gained access inside to carry out our survey work, my colleagues and I took a few moments to visually poke around the place, noting all of the invasive/pioneer species growing throughout.  Soil was upturned, vine-y plants had forged unexpected pathways, and snippets of old identification cards were strewn throughout – with familiar Linnaean classificatory names such as Brassicaceae.  We carried on with our assignment and took a series of measurements, such as the perimeter of the greenhouse, various depths, and remaining wooden walkway.

According to the Student Greenhouse Project, the nearby greenhouse and its accompanying “Butterfly House” were multi-functional and were used for various student activities, such as poetry readings, drum-circles, and concerts.  In addition to being used as an educational facility, the local community used these spaces for weddings; health walks for heart patients from nearby Sparrow Hospital, and educational tours for elementary students from as far away as Saginaw Bay.  For more on this, please visit the Student Greenhouse Project website for more information and be sure to check out their photos that document the recent history of these nearby greenhouses!

This Week’s Surveys

This week we are doing two surveys for Campus Archaeology on MSU’s campus. This first is part of the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams (FRIB) and the second is part of the demolition of the Old Botany greenhouses.

The FRIB project was awarded to MSU by the US Department of Energy Office of Science. FRIB will enable scientists to make discoveries about the properties of rare isotopes in order to better understand elements. This project is important not only because it will allow us to study rare isotopes in a new way, but it also is an honor that MSU was able to get the project. At this point in the project, the area is ready for construction and awaiting approval from the US Department of Energy. Since the project has begun, Campus Archaeology has been a pivotal part. As part of the bid to get the project, it was required that an archaeological survey and historical research would be completed.

Now that the project is underway, we are beginning our part. We are currently surveying the location where all the dirt from the project will go. The actual footprint of the building isn’t that large, but it is extremely deep. You can watch the progress live on their webcam: FRIB Webcam of Construction. The dig for the actual building will create thousands of trucks of dirt that must all go somewhere. You may have already noticed that along Mt. Hope Road near Farm Lane, there are new piles of dirt. This entire area, from the new MSUFCU to the railroad track will be filled in with dirt. Before this happens, Campus Archaeology will conduct a survey of the area. Prior to the 1950’s, this location was a farmstead complete with a farmhouse and outbuildings. Survey done last week and this week will determine where those buildings are and check for any unanticipated historic or prehistoric features.

Survey of the Greenhouse Green Space

The second project is the documentation of the Old Botany Greenhouses. You probably have noticed these rather run down structures if you’ve walked through the parking lot near Natural Sciences and Laboratory Row. The greenery that is within the greenhouses right now is not actually part of research, it’s natural growth! The buildings haven’t been officially used in a while, and have been taken over by the plants which were once pruned and part of the botany program. The greenhouses were constructed 80-100 years ago, and have outlived their use. They also present a health issue since the windows themselves are caulked with asbestos. Over the next year the greenhouses and headhouse will be removed and made into green space. Prior to the demolition of the building, Campus Archaeology will be documenting the building itself. There aren’t actually good maps of the building or pictures of it, so we will be taking measurements and photographing it. This way, we have a record of what the building once was so previous archaeologists won’t be surprised! We have already done a survey around the green space, and actually found a number of artifacts.

Come out and visit us at Old Botany Greenhouses on Wednesday morning or the Mt Hope survey on Friday morning and afternoon! The weather reports say we might get some snow, but that won’t slow us down!

Perceptions about Archaeology

As the only non-archaeologist graduate fellow in Campus Archaeology Program (I am a medical anthropologist in training), I wanted to investigate the attitudes that others outside the discipline have toward archaeology. Interestingly enough, when I tell people I am an anthropologist, it is usually assumed I am an archaeologist. These assumptions sometimes diverge further, with people thinking I am a paleontologist. I am sure this is a phenomenon that anthropologists from all subfields experience, but I thought I would turn to the literature to see what documented assumptions about archaeology exist.

The Society for American Anthropology published an article entitled Exploring Public Perceptions and Attitudes about Archaeology. The findings of this study were congruent to the assumptions I hear about anthropology as a whole and more specifically, archaeology. These findings point to the importance of Campus Archaeology Program to include our students, staff, faculty and readers of our blog in the investigation and preservation of our campus’ history and, if previously unaware or uninterested, of introducing them to the greater value of archaeology.

Archaeologists working, via Boston University

Many of us reading know the correct answer: archaeology is the study of the human past through material remains of human action. As for the American public, the findings of the article were surprisingly hopeful. The authors argue that Americans have a fairly accurate understanding of what archaeology is, however the depth of that knowledge and understanding of what archaeologists actually do is lacking and often displays misconceptions, which matches what I shared previously in my personal anecdote.

The article highlights one finding that may explain why people assume I am a paleontologist: the word that comes to mind when an American thinks of archaeology is the word “digging.” Most can correctly decipher that this includes digging artifacts from past history, heritage, and ancient cultures and civilizations, but 8 in 10 would agree that we study dinosaurs and geology as well.

This study was helpful in gauging general knowledge of archaeology and in illustrating a need for a deeper awareness and understanding of what we do and why it is important. The majority surveyed in this article believe archaeology is valuable and should be included in school curriculum. These issues of importance range from conservation laws to preserving remains from past cultures in history. Campus Archaeology Program has been granted the privilege and resposiblity to keep track of changes occuring on our campus and to know who we were in the past and how this shapes where we are going in the future.

Francis Pryor, a British archaeologist asserts, “I believe passionately that archaeology is vitally important.  Without an informed understanding of our origins and history, we will never place our personal and national lives in a true context.  And if we cannot do that, then we are prey to nationalist, fundamentalist and bigots of all sorts, who assert that their revelations or half-truths to which they subscribe are an integral part of human history.”

As archaeologists we have the charge to know human history with deeper understanding of how human behaviors produce real consequences. Now as for why the general public assumes that all anthropologists are necessarily archaeologists, this is still to be discovered.

Saints’ Rest Sidewalk Project

Over the past week, the Campus Archaeology team has been busy excavating beneath the sidewalks that were laid above Saints’ Rest. The building was first erected in 1856. It is the second building constructed at Michigan State University and the first dormitory. The name, Saints’ Rest, was a nickname from the students to the building more commonly known as the ‘hall’ or ‘home’. It was named so after a religious devotional book by Richard Baxter, The Saints’ Everlasting Rest, which was first published circa 1649 and was required reading for the first class of MSU students. The building was poorly made and in the winter of 1876, it burned down.

Saints Rest in 1857, via MSU Archives and Historical Records

In 2005 the northeast portion of the building and parts of the western interior were excavated as part of the sesquicentennial of MSU. Over a six week period the archaeological team discovered stoves, barrels, ceramics, student belongings, building equipment and conducted a thorough excavation. However, large portions of the building couldn’t be examined due to the sidewalks that crisscrossed over it. Later excavations in 2008 and 2009 in the same general area revealed a trash pit associated with the site.

Revealing the NW Corner of Saints’ Rest, 2012

As part of the general sidewalk reconstruction project occurring over the past month, the sidewalks above Saints’ Rest were removed. This gave us the opportunity to fill in a blank spot of the first excavation and explore the northwest portion of the building. Once the sidewalks were removed we began our survey by skimming off layers of dirt in 10cm intervals. When we were down about 20cm we hit a layer of mottled dirt with tons of artifacts throughout it. We found dozens of nails, pieces of ceramic, and chunks of glass. Another 10cm lower and we found a clear layer of grey and black ash. We knew we were close! Below that layer we hit the building itself.

After a week of cleaning and removing dirt we have been able to reveal a large section of the northernmost wall, the northwest corner (including the cornerstone of the building), and one interior room at the eastern edge of the building. We have recovered whole glass bottles, inkwells, sash weights and pulleys, slate pencils, buttons, porcelain, piping, and a large number of unidentifiable metal pieces. Today is the last day of the project, and we are carefully mapping out the foundation walls, and photographing the site.

North Wall of Saints' Rest, 2012

North Wall of Saints’ Rest, 2012

Most of us who are working on the dig are newer to MSU, and hadn’t gotten the chance to work on the original Saints’ Rest excavation. It is exciting to work in the first dormitory and reveal a new section. We are actively adding to MSU’s history! Once we are done, the foundation will be covered back up, the sidewalks will be replaced and we will begin analysis of the artifacts. Saints’ Rest will once again be buried beneath our feet.

Maps and Mysteries

About three weeks ago we learned that MSU Landscaping was going to be re-doing the sidewalks above Saints’ Rest, the first dormitory on campus. While we’ve had a number of excavations near this area, we never got the opportunity to see what was underneath these areas. Now they are finally removing the concrete in order to redo them, and we have a week’s worth of access to this historic site. The sidewalks being removed go right through the middle of the now demolished building, and will yield important information on the site as well as fill in the gaps we currently have. Since we learned about this, I’ve been doing research to acquaint myself with Saints’ Rest and come up with an excavation plan. My first goal was to find a good map of the 2005 excavation so that I could begin the planning. It was here that I ran into problems.

MUNSYS Map of Saints’ Rest (Shown in Orange), West of MSU Museum

We use a system called MUNSYS to produce our campus maps for excavations. This handy tool is used by MSU’s Physical Plant and Landscaping. It shows all of the sidewalks, streets, buildings (current and razed), and most importantly the utilities that are underground. I printed off a MUNSYS map of the area so that I’d have an idea of potential electrical wires or sewer lines that we may run into. Under the suggestion of Terry Brock, the first campus archaeologist who worked on all the Saints’ Rest digs, I went to the excavation reports for Saints’ Rest. These included the book “Beneath the Ivory Tower: Archaeology of Academia” edited by Skowronek and Lewis, and a masters dissertation by Mustonen on that first 2005 excavation. Both had detailed maps showing the location of Saints’ Rest and the excavation units. This is when I hit a snag. The map for Saints’ Rest didn’t match my current map. Even with the help of Terry we couldn’t figure out how to match them up. We tried matching up the sidewalks from the 2005 dig to the modern map of sidewalks with no luck.

Map of Saints’ Rest 2005 Excavation, via Mustonen 2007

I looked up photos and maps from the first dig, hoping that a different drawing or different map would bring a new perspective that would solve the discrepancy. That’s when I found an earlier version of the Campus Archaeology website with some reports of the first digs we completed as a program. One of them was the Saints’ Rest 2008 project that involved some test units being opened prior to the planting of new trees.

Google Earth Map of MSU showing Saints’ Rest and the 2008 Sidewalk Configuration

The report has a number of maps, one from Landscaping and one from Google. Comparing these with my current map shows something very clearly: they’ve changed the sidewalks in this area since 2008. The configuration present in the 2005 and 2008 digs is completely different from my 2012 map. By matching these three together, I was finally able to figure out where the building is and start planning the dig in more detail. I also found that the configuration of Saints’ Rest in MUNSYS is not the actual configuration of the razed foundations.

Now that I’ve solved that little mystery we can move forward. Check back next week to learn more about this dig and follow us on Twitter and Facebook to get live updates!

An Unexpectedly Old Artifact: The Paperclip

Ad for Common Sense Clip, Via Office Museum

On June 7th during an excavation in West Circle Drive we recovered a paperclip. Now, you should know that we don’t keep anything that is definitely modern. We don’t keep the crushed beer cans from tailgating or the McDonald’s straws from littering. We did keep a paperclip, although whether or not to do this was debated. Can a paperclip really tell us anything about the past? Are they even considered historic?

For a while the paperclip was forgotten among the dozens of bags of artifacts from our extensive surveys, that is until yesterday when we began our identification and cataloging. Out of sheer curiosity we searched online for information about the paperclip and were shocked at how old the paperclip is. Paperclips were invented the same year as the typewriter, ten years before the telephone, and twenty years before Coca Cola or barbed wire. That’s right, by the time the matchbook was invented, paperclips were already of legal drinking age.

History of the Paper Clip

Gem Clip, Via Office Museum

The first bent steel wire paper clip was patented by Samuel B. Fay in 1867. Its original purpose was for attaching tickets to fabric, although the patent recognized that it could be used to attach papers together. However, advertisements for the paperclip aren’t found until 1899 so it is unlikely that there were any significant sales prior to the late 1890’s. Another design of the paperclip was patented by Erlman J. Wright in 1877 and was advertised at that time for use in fastening newspapers. A flood of paperclip patents were found for 1897, indicating that there was widespread use of this item in offices in this period. A trade publication from 1900 stated that “The wire clip for holding office papers together has entirely superseded the use of the pin in all up-to-date offices” (Early Office Museum 2012).

Paperclip Artifact from June 7 Excavations

Paperclip- The Artifact

Based on the descriptions from early advertisements, we can tell that our paperclip is a Gem type that was first introduced in 1894. The only problem is that Gem style paperclips are for the most part unchanged since their introduction in material and design, and the machines for creating them are same in design as the 1930’s machines. Some are covered with colorful plastics, but ours was not so this distinction is unhelpful. Given that other artifacts from the level include historic cut nails and glass, it is likely our clip dates to the early 20th century.

Fun Facts about Paperclips

While doing research on the paperclip, we also learned some fun facts. Did you know the Herbert Spencer (individual who coined the phrase ‘survival of the fittest’) is often attributed with inventing the clip in the early 19th century based on a journal entry that describes a paper fastener he is using?

A Norwegian, Johan Vaaler (1866–1910), has erroneously been identified as the inventor of the paper clip due to some poor German reporting in the 1920’s. During WWII the Norwegians wore them on their lapels after national pins were outlawed by the Nazis. It was a symbol of solidarity and being bound together, combined with the nationalism of the country’s supposed invention of the tool. Following the war, the paperclip became a national symbol!

20 billion paperclips are produced annually in the United States, and a study estimated that the majority of these are not used for holding paper together- but rather are used for other tools for technology (CD-ROM ejector, iPhone SIM release, etc), bent apart, used to make chains and bracelets, or even used as lock picking devices (Wikipedia).