Thank you Autumn Painter, outgoing Campus Archaeologist: As we say goodbye to outgoing Campus Archaeologist Autumn Painter who, in her two years in the position, continued CAP’s legacy of creative outreach, education, and mitigation while also profoundly shaping the future of the program, we welcome …
Dr. Terry Brock is a historical and public archaeologist, and is currently the Assistant Director of Archaeology at the Montpelier Foundation in Orange, Virginia. He served as the first Campus Archaeologist from 2008 to 2010 while a graduate student at MSU. As someone who was …
Chris Stawski was involved with Campus Archaeology at its inception, beginning as an archaeological technician in the summer of 2008. Chris also held the position of Campus Archaeologist during the 2010-2011 academic year. During his tenure with CAP, he was a crew chief twice during the Campus Archaeology Summer Field School, and helped to create the framework for a Geographic Information System database for campus archaeological and historical research and analysis.
Chris earned his PhD from Michigan State University with a focus on archaeology in 2012, and since has been applying his skills in higher education, where he had taught for 5 years as an adjunct faculty member in the Anthropology Department at San Francisco State University.
Chris currently works at the University of California Berkeley’s Extension Program, and assists the Dean’s Office in project management and research. It is in this position that he uses his skills first developed working as Campus Archaeologist, which include establishing and maintaining campus partnerships, effectively communicating with external stakeholders and departments, and collaborating in multi-disciplinary research.
Q: You were in of the first groups of CAP fellows, what was it like when you were all establishing the program and how did it change over your tenure?
A: While CAP was first being established, the focus was on trying to figure out what we were working with archaeologically and trying to get a sense of the history and pre-history of the campus. A parallel focus was trying to be good campus partners. I took a lot of meetings with folks across campus to help foster collaboration and to make sure people knew who we were and what our mission was. This was where Dr. Goldstein was so successful in the early years of CAP, and its due to her laying the groundwork for these relationships that made CAP a truly successful program.
A: As things went on, people started to take more notice, and we emphasized the outreach in an effort to engage both the internal community at MSU, the larger archaeological community, as well as the local East Lansing community. The summer field schools were a great success in this respect, and really made people aware of what we were doing on campus. Archaeologically, over time we got a good handle on the landscape and what we may expect to find, and started building models that were informed by the survey and excavations we did. This led to more structure for the program, more opportunities for both graduate and undergraduate participation, and more research.
Q: What was your year as Campus Archaeologist like?
A: My year as Campus Archaeologist was spent organizing. I worked with some very excellent undergraduate interns, and together we helped to curate, standardize and structure the artifact collection for CAP. That was a big undertaking, but very helpful for all future collections. My own personal project was to build the framework for a Geographic Information System (GIS) for the archaeological investigations we did. It was pretty bare bones in the beginning, but subsequent people at CAP have improved upon the database and structure since I left. My final months as Campus Archaeologist were spent helping to run the 2nd ever CAP Summer Field School.
Q: What was your biggest challenge as a Campus Archaeologist?
A: My biggest challenge was social media. Terry Brock and Dr. Goldstein were so good at using these platforms for CAP, and I was completely illiterate in terms of Twitter and Facebook. But I kept at it because that was a crucial way in which we interacted with the public. As an archaeological program, I would have to imagine that we were a very early adopter of social media, especially Twitter. I have since gotten a bit better with Twitter, but it is still not my strong suit 🙂
Q: What was your favorite part of CAP (highlights)?
A: My favorite parts of CAP were the summer field schools, working with the undergraduate interns on their projects and seeing them present at the undergrad symposium, and just being in the field. You never knew when you may be called in to go to a construction site, or be asked to do some initial investigation of an area. It was so fun loading up my truck and heading out with my peers to go excavate on a nice fall day. Those are some of my fondest memories from my time at MSU.
Q:What were the major projects that you work on/with fellows on?
A: Like I had mentioned earlier, one of the biggest projects was curating and providing a structure to the artifact database at CAP. The other major project was the Faculty Row project, which was a huge construction undertaking in the oldest part of campus. That was my first major project, andI spent all summer helping to oversee and mitigate the major earth moving being done. That was also the first time we used GIS at CAP. We found a great map of the old Faculty Row buildings, and I was able to take that map and overlay it on the current aerial imagery of campus to get a better idea of where we may find archaeological sensitive areas and material.
Q: What are you currently working on now?
A:Currently I am the executive assistant to the Dean of the UC Berkeley Extension Program. I help to manage the Dean’s Office as well aid in managing projects, research and analysis related to the mission of the program. Prior to this role, I was an adjunct lecturer in the Anthropology Department at San Francisco State University.
Q: What was the most important thing you got out of CAP? How do you bring what you learned in CAP to what you do now?
A: For me, CAP was the best example of how you do archaeology and research in higher education, while simultaneously being a good campus partner and engaging in multi-disciplinary and cross-departmental collaboration. It helped to take me out of my “anthro/arch” bubble, and showed me the value of inclusivity and teamwork. Good research must take on a collaborative aspect, and you must be diverse in how you approach your work. Whether that is a diversity of people, different perspectives and viewpoints, or a variety of departments/programs, it is an essential aspect of all the work I have done since my time at CAP.
I want to thank Chris Stawski for allowing me to interview him and for his excellent perspectives into the early years of the Campus Archaeology Program.
Dr. Amy Michael is a biological anthropologist whose research examines the microstructure of human bones and teeth in order to address questions ranging from health and social identity in the ancient Maya to the effect of lifestyle factors on skeletal age. She is currently a …
Michigan State’s Campus Archaeology program has provided fellowships for a number of graduate students in anthropology. These fellowships are awarded to enthusiastic, motivated students who are interested in gaining a unique learning experience. The fellows dedicate a lot of time and energy into conducting research …
As a new member of the Campus Archaeology Program and as someone starting my first year in the anthropology program, I have not yet chosen a project, so I was delighted when the opportunity to interview a former member of CAP came up. As I had hoped, the interview and my preparation for it taught me a lot about CAP that I do not think I would have picked up otherwise. This blog post is share that what I learned and to promote Lisa Bright, the former MSU campus archaeologist who graciously took time out of her busy life to talk to me about her experiences with CAP. Lisa may be the only MSU graduate to work in so many capacities for CAP. As an undergraduate Lisa worked on the 2005 CAP field school at Saint’s Rest, and after returning to MSU to pursue her PhD. Lisa worked as a CAP fellow (2014-2015) and later as the Campus Archaeologist (2015-2018). In these different capacities, Lisa was able to grow with CAP and to grow the program’s presence on the campus throughout her tenure. I was very lucky to speak with Lisa Bright about these experiences and to gain some insight on how the Campus Archaeology Program helped her become a successful and employed archaeologist.
Lisa Bright is a PhD candidate at Michigan State University. She is currently finishing her dissertation, focusing on the health/pathology of a historic era California potter’s field, with an anticipated graduation in 2019. Lisa is also the District Native American Consultation Coordinator/Archaeologist for the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) District 3 and an adjunct Anthropology instructor.
Lisa started with CAP in her first year in the PhD. program in 2014, she became campus archaeologist in August of 2015 and remained in that position until leaving CAP for her job with Caltrans, teaching at California State University, Chico, and dissertation writing in May of 2018. Needless to say, Lisa has remained busy since leaving MSU and CAP.
Lisa is also the only campus
archaeologist whose tenure lasted three years, most hold the position for two.
I asked her how she felt about being campus archaeologist for this length of
time and she told me three years was fine, not a problem at all, but that the
campus archaeologist position does take a lot of work. Although I never worked
with Lisa, my brief experience as a CAP fellow has shown me how much work being
the campus archaeologist at MSU can be. I have seen Autumn Painter, the current
campus archaeologist, coordinate and assist with all the current projects CAP
fellows are working on, as well as being the one to respond when ever
archaeological materials are uncovered during construction on campus.
During her tenure as campus archaeologist Lisa oversaw several significant projects, including the Abbot’s entrance rejuvenation project which discovered the Station Terrace basement, finding the soon to be excavated sugar shack foundation, the excavation of nearly 350 shovel tests pits for the Wilson Road survey, creative outreach projects like the MSU food reconstruction project, and working to ensure all collections were accessioned and projects reports were being finished.
In 2015, Lisa’s first year in the position,
CAP’s main objective was to sort, catalog, and accession the artifacts from the
Gunson excavation. The field school earlier that summer dug five excavation
units, none of which hit sterile soil, the excavations were forced to stop at seven
feet below surface where they hit the water table. Out of those five units came
roughly 46,000 artifacts, an enormous amount of data to be sure, but also a
daunting task for any curator. Thanks to the efforts of Lisa, the CAP fellows,
and undergraduate volunteers in 2015 the artifacts from Gunson were preserved. Lisa
suggested that the collection would make a great research project for anyone
In 2017, Lisa oversaw the Campus
Archaeology field school which excavated six 2 x 2 meter units at the Station
Terrace site, no small task in just four weeks! Lisa is very proud of her role
in implementing the field school project and of all the undergraduates and
volunteers who worked to make the project possible.
To get a sense of how all these
various projects helped Lisa to develop as an archaeologist I asked her if she
could mention a few of the most useful skills she learned from her time as
campus archaeologist. Unsurprisingly, Lisa listed a great number of these. The
foremost was what she learned acting in a management position. This role sees a
project through from conception to implementation and curation processes and also
acts as mediator and public face of a program. She pointed out that this is a
unique role in archaeology, mostly reserved for project managers or owners of
cultural resource management firms. Very seldom do students get an opportunity
to develop these necessary skills, giving Lisa and other campus archaeologist a
competitive edge when applying for jobs. In fact, Lisa credited this experience
as a major reason she beat out many other archaeologists for her current job. I
can think of no higher praise for CAP’s training than stories like these.
I also asked Lisa about the challenges she must have face in her years as campus archaeologist. The first she mentioned was developing her authority in the position. Her background was in osteology and mortuary studies, not historical archaeology, yet Lisa committed to connecting her knowledge base to historical archaeology throughout her tenure as campus archaeologist. This is a challenge we all face when starting a new job, integrating out skill sets into existing frames and hopefully learning new skills along the way. Lisa also mentioned challenges with learning all the systems of the program and learning as she encountered new issues. A lot of her success in adapting to these systems came down to knowing what the previous campus archaeologists did and how they organized things and solved problems.
To close out our conversation, I wanted to ask Lisa what she most enjoyed during her time in CAP and as campus archaeologist. The first that has to be mentioned is when Lisa was excavating the West Circle Privy as a graduate fellow and uncovered the now famous doll head affectionately know as Mabel. This event is made more serendipitous because Lisa eventually returned to MSU and to CAP. Lisa and Mabel are forever connected to the Campus Archaeology Program.
The raspberry seeds were another
favorite. Though slightly less of a cosmic coincidence, Lisa led an effort to
use Beal’s techniques to germinate and grow the privy seeds and even though the
experiment did not work out, Lisa takes a positive outlook, enjoying the effort
and attempt. One a more successful note Lisa mentioned that working with the
organic farm and the food truck was another highlight of her time as campus
archaeologist. When you look through Lisa’s numerous blog posts a dedication to
creative public archaeology and outreach through it all. CAP’s potential and
Lisa’s goals came together in this aspect and a real connection between the
public and the university formed.
Lastly, Lisa told me that the best
part of her four years with CAP and three years as campus archaeologist was
constantly working with wonderful people. It was clear that she valued the
relationships she developed with everyone she worked and studied with. I also
want to thank Lisa Bright for allowing me to interview her for this blog post.
I hope that this provides some insight not only into Lisa’s time with CAP, but
also what it is like for all the fellows and the current campus archaeologist
to work in MSU’s Campus Archaeology Program.
Burnett, Jeff Interview with Lisa Bright 10/5/2018 Notes
taken by hand
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 …
Looking back at my tenure as Campus Archaeologist it’s clear that I’ve learned invaluable lessons in the past two years. Not only have I gained valuable skills in social media and public outreach, but I’ve been able to hone my archaeological skills. So here is …
Hi, I’m Lisa Bright, the newest MSU Campus Archaeologist. I’m very excited to take over this position from Kate Frederick. I’ve been working with CAP for the last year, but my personal experience with archaeology on MSU’s campus goes back much further than that.
I attended MSU for undergrad from 2003-2007. I was an anthropology major, with a primary focus on physical anthropology. However, during the summer of 2005 I had the opportunity to participate in the first Saints Rest excavation. It was my first archaeological field experience, which provided me with a range of diverse skills. Who would have thought that ten years later I’d be back participating with campus archaeology!
After graduating in 2007 I entered the anthropology master’s program at California State University, Chico. Although my thesis work focused on scavenging patterns with regard to forensic cases. I also participated in another historic-era field school in Northern California. After graduating with my M.A. in 2011, I worked as an osteologist on a late 19th/early 20th century potter’s field in San Jose, California, and as a lecturer for CSU, Chico and Lassen Community College anthropology departments. My dissertation will focus on the health and nutritional status of the individuals from the historic cemetery in San Jose.
Now I’m happy to be back at MSU starting my second year of the Ph.D. program. I look forward to sharing my experiences with you, and continuing the hard work of my predecessors to preserve the cultural heritage on campus.
The purpose behind the Campus Archaeology Program here at MSU is to connect the past to the present in order to inform the future. Archaeology allows us to engage the past so we can understand where we come from. MSU’s past is vibrant, making the …