Tag: food

Here Fishy Fishy: Fish Importation in the 1860s

Here Fishy Fishy: Fish Importation in the 1860s

As I have been going through the purchasing records for the college’s first boarding halls (housed at the MSU Archives), I’ve noticed some interesting purchases that I did not expect. Scattered among the many notations about common veggies and other foodstuffs were the purchasing notes 

Feast your Eyes on This: Banquets and Changing Cuisine at MSU (or: How I Wish I Could Time Travel to 1884 and Eat All the Cake)

Feast your Eyes on This: Banquets and Changing Cuisine at MSU (or: How I Wish I Could Time Travel to 1884 and Eat All the Cake)

During a recent visit to the MSU Archives, I was beginning my search through records pertaining to food and came across a rather interesting folder containing programs for various MSU and other local banquets. These programs all featured menus for the event, and demonstrate changes 

For the Love of Food: Digital Outreach, Animal Bones, and Early Food Habits on Campus

For the Love of Food: Digital Outreach, Animal Bones, and Early Food Habits on Campus

Analyzing and interpreting past food practices has always been one of my passions. This year for CAP, I will be working with Susan Kooiman to explore and recreate the food environment during the Early Period of MSU’s campus (1855-1870), as explained in Susan’s previous blog post. While Susan will take on more of the background research of this period, I am going to delve into the animal bones uncovered through Campus Archaeology excavations. I began my training as a zooarchaeologist while earning my Master’s degree at Illinois State University. Most of my experience has been with prehistoric animal remains and I am very excited to work with the animal bones recovered from Campus to better understand food production, preparation, serving, and consumption at Michigan State!

Women with cows on campus, 1908 - Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections
Women with cows on campus, 1908 – Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections
Standard Cuts of Meat (1908) - Image Source
Standard Cuts of Meat (1908) – Image Source

I will first begin by sorting the animal bones by animal class: mammal, bird, fish, and reptile/amphibian. After this initial sorting I will use a osteological comparative collection to conduct my identifications. From previous initial zooarchaeological analysis, we know that there are many different butchering marks present on many of the mammal remains. This will be one of my focuses during analysis. I hope to be able to determine what types of cuts of meat were being produced on campus, or if there were students learning butchering practices.

In addition to conducting a faunal analysis on the remains from the privy and Saints Rest excavations, I will be working on creating a website for this project. While we are in the initial stages of the project, we are working on formulating how we want to portray this project online. Currently, we would like to highlight the various aspects of food practices at MSU during this period including cooking, sustainability, production, ceramics, animal bone analysis, and food reconstruction. In addition to discussing our results from this project, we will also be documenting each step of our research. Our hope is to create videos showing how we learn about MSU’s history, from searching through archival records, visiting with MSU’s farms, to animal bone analysis. I can’t wait to see where this project takes us!

Animal bones, some butchered, from the West Circle Privy - Image via Lisa Bright
Animal bones, some butchered, from the West Circle Privy – Image via Lisa Bright
Food for Thought: Documenting Early Food Habits at MSU

Food for Thought: Documenting Early Food Habits at MSU

I love food. Ask anyone. I didn’t begin my archaeological career studying food, but my interest in ancient pottery eventually brought me around to the study of cooking and diet. It is not surprising, then, that my passion for eating ultimately led (albeit indirectly) to 

Historic Sustainability and Food Practices at MSU

Historic Sustainability and Food Practices at MSU

As I continue to work on the sustainability project, I will be sharing excerpts from the draft that I am writing. Last week I came across a very helpful bound volume detailing receipts for food services from 1864-1874. Dr. Manly Miles kept a ledger of 

Update on the Sustainability Project

Update on the Sustainability Project

Throughout the course of this semester, I will be writing up the results of my archival research as they pertain to the archaeological materials recovered by CAP. I expect to revisit the University Archives several more times to read through some older documents, but I plan to partly shift my focus to tracking down theses and dissertations written by past students about the MSU campus. Sylvia Deskaj, a CAP fellow, has started to compile these sources from the library collections. There are a number of detailed studies on topics such as traffic patterns, food consumption, and water management on the MSU campus that I believe could articulate well with my Archives research and the CAP collections. Rather than sharing more details from the Archives in this blog post, I decided to share the introduction for the sustainability paper that I will co-author with Dr. Goldstein and Jennifer Bengtson (former CAP fellow). I have divided the paper into the following sub-topics: transportation, agriculture/food, development of the college, development of East Lansing, war effort and community response, and daily student life/experiences. Below I have posted the introduction to the paper draft:

The goals of the Campus Archaeology Program (CAP) are to protect archaeological resources and disseminate information on cultural heritage at Michigan State University (MSU). Working with departments across the university to ensure proper mitigation and documentation of archaeological features, CAP is actively involved in the maintenance of the historical past on campus. Through the program, undergraduate and graduate students participate in research design, excavation, archival work, and historical research. Engaged scholarship and community interation are the primary foci of CAP, with staff members contributing to digital media accounts, developing public outreach programs, and presenting research in academic journals. For the purposes of research, CAP recognizes four historical periods: Period 1 (1855-1870), Period 2 (1870-1900), Period 3 (1900-1925), and Period 4 (1925-1955).

Long before the concept of sustainability was in vogue, MSU students and faculty regularly engaged in practices that would, by today’s standards and terminology, be considered sustainable. Using archaeological features and recovered material culture, CAP is in a unique position to document the efficacy of these practices by providing time depth and context to the evolution of the sustainability concept. Drawing upon archaeological data and archival documents, CAP presents a history of MSU’s “green” heritage. These sources can provide a culturally and temporally sensitive picture of how sustainable food and transportation practices were implemented and experienced by the campus community.

The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education defines sustainability as supporting “human and ecological health, social justice, secure livelihoods, and a better world for all generations” (aashe.org). We take a similarly broad view of the concept and adapt it furhter to account for the ways that attitudes toward food and transportation reflect the socioeconomic concerns of the four specific historical periods in question. For this paper, we define sustainability as the capacity of the University to preserve and optimize food and transportation systems under changing socioeconomic conditions, contextualized through integrating historical perceptions of the urgency of environmental, economic, social, political, and health concerns.

What’s for supper?

What’s for supper?

If you missed my poster two weeks ago at the Midwest Historical Archaeology Conference hosted at MSU, I’m also going to share my research here on the CAP blog.  The poster, entitled “What’s for Supper?  Food preferences and availability at the Agricultural College of the 

Cow Elbows and Archaeology

Cow Elbows and Archaeology

When considering food as a topic of archaeological research, one of the biggest obstacles is how.  Food remains are often difficult to find—they rot quickly, scavengers carry them away, and such essential practices as eating are often not mentioned in historical documents.  Despite the odds 

Historic Sustainability at MSU

Historic Sustainability at MSU

Erica holds a cow bone, excavated from behind Saints’ Rest on MSU’s campus..

Greetings, Campus Archaeology fans!  My name is Grace and I am a recent addition to the CAP family.  As a new graduate student at MSU it has taken me a bit of time to find my footing, but even as I began adapting to my new intellectual surroundings my love of food has never wavered.  Food in all forms and stages is my academic passion, and I firmly believe it is a fundamental aspect of human culture.  People continuously interact over food, whether to come together or create conflict, eke out a living or luxuriate.  Though the complete study of food involves infinite levels of production and consumption, the first and broadest question is: Where does food come from?

Answering this question depends not only on where it is, but where in time it is.  Evidence of food and food production in the archaeological record is complex and often difficult to interpret, but can help to explain how and why people lived as they did.  MSU, with its roots as an agricultural college, is fantastic place to study food production in the United States.  The original goals of The Agricultural College were in teaching students to be innovative farmers and committed American citizens.  Agricultural experiments were designed to develop new farming methods with an emphasis on high yields while maintaining the environment.  Environmental maintenance is of the utmost importance in farming for long-term production.  While MSU was beginning to develop better methods of farming in the mid-nineteenth century, cash crops were demonstrating the destructive effects of exploitative agriculture over a large portion of the United States.  While sustainable agriculture would not become a prominent issue until the 1960’s, the roots of the movement were already in practice in MSU’s experimental programs.  The question of where food comes from then takes on a new facet, evolving to become not only a question of locality, but production as well.  By asking this question, we can begin to measure historic sustainability within the MSU community.

With my research, I hope to be able to determine the nature of agriculture at MSU since opening in 1857.  How much agriculture was being practiced on campus?  How much of what they produced was available to the community?  These questions will help me to look at the development of the MSU community in terms of sustainability over time.  I look forward to sharing my research with all of you!