In December of 2020, CAP was proud to be included in the Society for Historical Archaeology’s (SHA) Newsletter for winter 2020 (download here). In an article written by CAP director Dr. Stacey L. Camp, former Campus Archaeologist Autumn Painter, and current Campus Archaeologist Jeff Burnett, …
Over the next few days MSU will be welcoming some students back and opening up for some in-person and many virtual classes. For CAP, the beginning of a new semester would typically mean welcoming new undergraduate interns, preparing outreach events, and jumping back into our …
Greetings from Dr. Camp, the Director of the MSU Campus Archaeology Program.
This summer has been one of great concern for our community and nation as well as one where we have had to rethink how we approach Campus Archaeology amid a global pandemic. Under normal circumstances, our staff, which usually includes 6-8 PhD students, would be out on construction projects across campus during the summer. We spend our late winters and springs researching the areas of campus slated for construction so we know what we may find once the ground has been broken. We often do surveys of the landscape and, if we find artifacts or architecture, excavation before construction starts to see if they may be additional artifacts or cultural resources on the area slated for construction. We completed our research in the winter and spring for construction planned this summer, but then COVID-19 descended on our state and community, forcing nearly all workers on MSU’s enormous campus home to work remotely.
Despite the stress and uncertainty of the situation, our outgoing Campus Archaeologist, Autumn Painter, immediately adapted to the situation at hand and figured out creative, safe ways to keep Campus Archaeology running and our staff busy. Under Painter’s leadership, our staff put together fantastic research papers, reports, and innovative digital projects that we will be unveiling this coming year in lieu of the in-person outreach events we usually do. Despite our staff being locked out of their buildings and laboratories this summer, Painter made labwork happen by delivering the labwork to our staff’s doorsteps (with no contact, of course, and following all safety protocols).
Autumn Painter retired as our Campus Archaeologist this past July after serving two years in the role (we miss her already!) and putting in many years of time into Campus Archaeology as a fellow and undergraduate. We wish we could have celebrated her retirement in person, but we hope to do so when it’s safe. Jeff Burnett, a current PhD student and historical archaeologist in our department, is our new Campus Archaeologist, and he will be introducing himself in a blog post later this semester.
As our readers can probably guess, some archaeology cannot be done remotely. Archaeology is considered essential work due to federal compliance regulations, so many professional archaeologists have never stopped working in the field during the pandemic. This includes a few of us in Campus Archaeology. In late May, MSU began working on Service Road to install and extend utility lines. Within days of the project’s start, they hit a substantial archaeological midden, or, in non-archaeological jargon, a trash dump or landfill.
We received permission to have two of us – me, the Director of Campus Archaeology, and one Campus Archaeologist (Autumn or Jeff), work on the site. We completed the appropriate COVID-19 trainings and followed COVID-19 safety guidelines, including wearing a mask while out on the site, taking our temperatures before we came to the site and when we arrived at the site, and using our own field equipment instead of sharing it.
I shared my experience of working on this site with MSU’s Alumni University participants on my YouTube channel this past August. These videos touch upon what it is like to work on a construction project as an archaeologist, what does stratigraphy mean, how to excavate a delicate artifact, and what happens to artifacts once they are taken away from the construction site.
Though it was disappointing to not have our entire crew out investigating the site, we were very thankful for the entire construction crew on-site who were active participants in the project. They helped pull artifacts that they uncovered and put them aside so we could collect and study them. Mike Serafini of Strata Environmental Services, Incorporated corresponded with us daily to let us know how the work was proceeding and if they were hitting more of the archaeological midden during construction, which was a great help to us. Everyone on the site worked as collaborators and partners, sharing their knowledge of historic artifacts with us. It made our work easier given the restrictions and limited staffing we faced. We are so very thankful for all of the people with whom we worked and met this summer amid a stressful time.
We look forward to sharing our discoveries from this site with our followers this coming year as we continue to document MSU’s rich heritage. We also plan to follow through on our commitment to focusing on the diverse people who have been connected with MSU and to the promises we made in our blog earlier this summer. While we are not able to do in-person outreach events this fall, we have developed some exciting new digital content that will hopefully keep you (virtually) connected to MSU. We miss our beautiful campus and are looking forward to the day we can return in-person regularly. For now, we leave you with some photos of our discoveries this summer. Keep an eye out for more artifacts on our other social media platforms!
While the ground may be covered with inches of snow, CAP is looking ahead to plan for summer construction, in addition to our undergraduate archaeological field school. As you would have read in a previous blog post, the field school will be taking place near …
As the weather warms and summer gets closer, the Campus Archaeology Program is gearing up for yet another busy season. While our excavations occur primarily in the summer, months of planning and preparation take place before the first trowel is stuck in the dirt. Many …
As all MSU students, professors, and staff know, MSU is continually improving their roads, sidewalks, sporting fields, etc. Each spring through fall, MSU’s campus is scattered with constructions sites with the goal of bettering the physical campus environment. While this activity is very visible, there is much that goes on behind the scenes. Multiple parties are involved in the planning stages, including the Campus Archaeology Program. In order to achieve our goal of preserving the cultural heritage of MSU, we must understand where construction will take place, what kind of work will be done, and then generate our own plans for mitigating any possible damage to archaeological sites.
So how does this all work?
Throughout the year, MSU Infrastructure Planning and Facilities (IPF) (https://ipf.msu.edu/) is working on construction plans and creating maps and documents for each change. (See the IPF website to read more about their project phases: https://ipf.msu.edu/construction/business-partners/project-phases.html.) CAP comes into the picture around the ‘Construction Documents’ phase, when we can meet with staff at IPF and go over the upcoming planned construction.
I personally attended my very first meeting with IPF this past week, alongside Dr. Goldstein, Dr. Camp, and Lisa Bright, where I was able to learn about the upcoming construction this summer and see all of the incredibly detailed plan maps that have been created for each project! At this meeting, we discussed construction that will begin in April on the Service Road soccer field and in May along Wilson Road. There are so many advantages to meeting with the employees at IPF, including seeing the great detail within their plan maps. These maps allow us to determine what type of archaeological survey needs to be conducted before they begin construction, as well as how CAP should approach monitoring the work once it has begun. At this meeting we also discussed their timeline for the construction projects, as well as when it would be best for us to conduct our survey of the impacted areas. It was a great experience, and taught me a great deal about the extensive planning that takes place within our collaboration with IPF.
Now that we have met with IPF and have determined where on campus construction could impact archaeological sites, CAP must determine our survey methods for these projects. Currently, our plan stands as follows: as soon as the snow melts and the ground thaws a little (hopefully in early April), CAP will begin to survey, using a grid of shovel test pits, within the Service Road soccer field. During this survey, we will record and collect any archaeological evidence recovered. Once our survey is complete and construction begins, CAP fellows and summer field crew employees will then monitor the work for any further evidence of archaeological sites or artifacts that may have been outside of the initial survey.
In addition to surveying and monitoring, CAP also conducts archival research prior to construction projects, combing the written record for documents related to historic MSU campus in the areas of impact.
The combination of archaeological survey, monitoring construction, and archival research will ensure that we are doing everything that we can to protect MSU’s archaeological heritage! Keep a look out for us on campus!
For much of this summer the CAP field crew was busy surveying the area surrounding the East neighborhood (Akers, Fee, Hubbard, Conrad). Beginning in March 2018 Wilson road will be altered, creating an additional exit onto Hagadorn, a traffic light on Shaw, as well as …
We had a busy summer here at CAP. We were able to excavate at some interesting and important places such as the Abbott Entrance and Beals first botanical lab. Our last project area for the summer was behind the Old Horticulture building on north campus. IPF …
This summer we had the opportunity to excavate in several different areas of north campus. We began the summer working in conjunction with the Abbot entrance landscape rejuvenation project. This required us to survey down the center median, as well as either side of the road. I talked briefly before about the general history of this area, as well as a summer progress update. We were able to locate the basement of Station Terrace.
Chances are you’ve never heard of Station Terrace. The building stood just east of Faculty Row, near the southern end of the current Abbott entrance median. There’s not much information out there regarding the building, but we do know that it had many different identities during its life on campus.
Station Terrace was likely built during the 1880s or early 1890s (the earliest photo documenting the building is from 1896). Its original purpose was to provide housing for researchers visiting from the M.A.C. experimental stations. Later it was used to house bachelor instructors, earning its nickname the Bull Pen (perhaps also acquired as a counterpoint to Morill Hall’s nickname the Hen House).
During the evening of January 24th, 1903 the building was damaged by a fire started by a faulty chimney. There were several issues in the containment of the fire, including many of the volunteer fire fighters being at a society room party, lacking the proper wrench to screw into the closest hydrant, a frozen fire hydrant, and a burst water main. They eventually got the blaze under control, but substantial damage occurred to the west end of the building. However, it was recommended that the building (as well as other areas on campus) become outfitted with modern fire extinguishers and hand grenades.
Following the fire, some board members suggests remodeling the building, and changing it into a two family household. They went as far as to have the college architect prepare a sketch for the remodeling, but ultimately decided that they would derive more revenue and benefit from restoring the building to its former state with several apartments.
Between the spring of 1903 and 1923 the building housed the East Lansing post office. Because of this Station Terrace is often referred to as the old post office on maps and in historical documents. In 1902 after the demolition of the original trolley car waiting room, it was moved to Station Terrace. In 1921 the old college waiting room was taken over by the Flower Pot Tea Room, a café run by women in the home economics program.
Station Terrace, as well as several other buildings, were in the path of the Abbot Road entrance construction. However, the building was not demolished. In 1923-1924 it was moved off campus, to 291 Durand Street. The structure was also modified, and portions of the building were used to build the house next door. From the right angle, it still bears a slight resemblance to its former arrangement.
Because the building was physically moved off campus, and not demolished, collapsed, or burnt down like many other buildings we excavate, I was unsure what we would actually find. I was pleasantly surprised.
During our final row of STPs we encountered a large fieldstone at the depth of 1m. This unit was expanded, and expanded, and then expanded some more. We had located an interior dividing wall, in what I feel is the basement of Station Terrace. Further excavations revealed a concrete floor, water and sewage pipes, concentrations of sheet metal, an intact paste jar (more on this jar coming in a future blog!), and a pair of men’s shoes. The east side of the unit also contained some beautiful stratigraphy.
I’m still busy conducting more research on this location, and its possible suitability as a location for the next field school.
Justin L. Kestenbaum, ed. At the Campus Gate: A History of East Lansing. 1976.
Detroit Free Press, November 19th 1922: M.A.C. to Beautify College Entrance
Board of Trustee Meeting Minutes Notes: 1903.
M.A.C. Record vol 27 no 26 April 21 1922: http://onthebanks.msu.edu/Object/1-4-1004/the-mac-record-vol27-no26-april-21-1922/
MSU Archives: Campus Post Office 1892-1911. Folder 94, Box 826 Collection UA4.9.1
Since we last checked in we’ve had a busy week and a half. The Abbot entrance landscape rejuvenation project is coming to a close, so we’ve been able to finish work there and move onto testing other research questions. U.S. Weather Bureau Although the rejuvenation construction …