A fun fact for freshmen: if you live in Brody, you might be living in a dump. To be more specific, from the 1920s to the early 1950s, parts of the area now occupied by Brody Complex once served as the site of the City […]
Here at CAP, we find artifacts of the past that are generally not meant to have been found (e.g. items from trash pits or ruined buildings or privies). In contrast, the scrapbooks curated by MSU Archives contain elements that students found so important that they […]
Last summer CAP discovered the foundation/basement of a building known as Station Terrace. This building had many different uses during its approximately 40 years on campus (it was moved off campus in the early 1920s). It housed researchers from the experimental stations, served as bachelor faculty housing, rented space for East Lansing’s first post office, was a waiting room for the trolley line, and contained the female student run Flower Pot Tea Room. Station Terrace is a unique opportunity to examine a space on campus that transitioned from a male only building, to a female run business.
Early female students often get dismissed in history as just on campus for the “Mrs.” degree or disparaged for seeking a Home Economics degree that may not be understood as a legitimate course of study. A look through the archives dispels that narrative immediately, as female students at Michigan Agricultural College were held to high standards in the past and had an active role in creating and maintaining the college campus. At MSU, the Home Economics course was designed as a domestic science with the learning spaces as laboratories. A look at the Course of Study for Women at M.A.C. shows that women’s schedules were packed!
The domestic sciences were considered quite important at the college and women were tasked with the responsibilities of preparing meals for high-ranking visitors. A M.A.C. Record article written by a student and titled, “Our Cooking Laboratory” from 1897 noted that women at Abbot Hall served the members of the State Board whenever they visited the college. It appears that their creativity was encouraged, as their professor allowed them to create the appetizers and desserts for the meals to show off their progress and skills. It should be noted, too, that the cooking laboratory was exclusively the domain of female students – it is here where they experimented, measured, tested, and prepared food. It is interesting that the women refer to the space as a laboratory!
By 1912, the M.A.C. was hosting nearly month-long workshops called the Graduate School of Home Economics. An article in the M.A.C. record noted that courses in the chemistry of textiles and the physiology of the cell were scheduled alongside the principles of jelly making and costume design. Clearly the business of Home Economics is more varied than perhaps we assume.
During WWI, current and former students of the Home Economics program supported the war effort by putting on popular demonstrations of canning and food storage. The science of home economics was well-established on campus, but the transition into business management did not come until 1921 with the opening of the Flower Pot tea room (at least, this is the earliest record that we have found). MSU has a long tradition of student-run business and emphasis on entrepreneurship (in fact, modern Spartans even have the opportunity to compete for start-up funds for their businesses through a number of the colleges on campus!). The Flower Pot tea room can be understood in the history of this student-oriented business tradition, though it initially started as a alumni-owned shop. The proceeds from the tea room were allocated for the home management houses, but by 1922 the small building was taken over by the Institutional Management class of the Home Economics department. The tea room was initially run out of an old shed behind Old Horticulture, but in the fall of 1921 it was moved into Station Terrace.
An M.A.C. Record article from 1922 describes the space as, “an admirable laboratory,” likely referencing the “experiment” of having students operate the tea room and prepare all the food. In 1923 it appears that they attempted to move the tea room off campus, but it returns to Station Terrace and the alumni had relinquished their stake in the business. CAP has excavated portions of Station Terrace and will return this summer to continue exploring this space. The use life of Station Terrace is exciting for CAP to investigate, as the space was originally the province of males exclusively – in fact, it was a bachelor house! The transition from bachelor housing to female-operated tea room business in a fairly short period of time gives us clues about the expanding role of females on the historic campus. Stay tuned for more from Station Terrace as excavations get underway this May as part of the 2017 CAP field school.
MAC Record, 1896, Vol 1, Number 23
MAC Record 1921, Vol 26, Number 34
MAC Record 1921, Vol 27, Number 5
MAC Record, Vol 27, Number 14
MAC Record, Vol 27, Number 18
MAC Record, Vol 27, Number 25
MAC Record, Vol 27, Number 26
MAC Record, Vol 28, Number 16
This is the second entry of a two-part blog by Blair Zaid and Amy Michael about Myrtle (Craig) Mowbray, one of the first African American graduates of State Agricultural College, now Michigan State University, and the climate and culture of college life in the first […]
This is the first entry of a two part blog by Blair Zaid and Amy Michael about Myrtle (Craig) Mowbray, one of the first African American graduates of Michigan Agricultural College, and the climate and culture of college life in the first decade of 1900s. […]
For the past year, I have been investigating the gendered landscape of the historic campus. University Archives keeps the scrapbooks made by past female students and we can find newspaper clippings detailing female exploits on campus, but until recently it has remained fairly difficult to “see” women in the archaeological record. Of course we know women lived, worked, and studied at MSU throughout the years, but why is their archaeological imprint so invisible?
This summer CAP field school students excavated a deposit believed to be connected to the Gunson House. The amount of materials culled from the site was incredible! I have spent the past month going through the many bags in the lab and selecting the glass and ceramic artifacts that appear to be those most exclusively used and belonging to women. We know that the house became a women’s home management home after Professor Gunsons death. We also know that the Gunson house was likely home to some pretty fancy dishware as Professor Gunson and his wife were known to throw parties. The number of different patterns of plates, cups, and bowls, however, was surprising even given this knowledge.
Some examples of artifacts found at the site are included below. A definite feminine theme unites the assemblage as perfume bottles, doll parts, delicate glassware, and ornate dinnerware are pervasive throughout. Perhaps most interesting was the souvenir glass artifact with the “Lu…” and “1905” inscription. Campus Archaeologist Lisa Bright and I hypothesized that this was a personalized piece belonging to Lutie Gunson, the second wife of Professor Gunson (and housekeeper to the home when the first Mrs. Gunson was still alive!). This is the first piece of personalized material found in the assemblage so far. It was exciting to link an historical person with this assemblage!
For the past several months, CAP fellow Amy Michael and I have been preparing a presentation for the UMass Amherst Cultural Landscapes and Heritage Values conference about gendered landscapes on MSU’s campus. What is a gendered landscape, you ask? A landscape can be considered “gendered” […]
The following is my first blog post for the Broad Art Museum Writing Residency program. We were given articles on “mediascape” and landscape and instructed to consider these works in conversation with Trevor Paglen’s artwork (referenced in my intro blog post about the residency) and […]
Considering a Cognitive Landscape – Restriction, Constraint, and Surveillance in the Creation of Boundaries
In my last blog, I detailed the Broad Art Museum writing residency program that I will participate in this semester. We had our first meeting with the faculty members (from many different departments!) and fellows last week. Throughout the course of the meeting, we listened to lectures on the artist/experimental geographer Trevor Paglen (see his website at www.paglen.com) as well as on the history of landscape art. Coming from a physical anthropology/archaeology perspective, nearly every bit of information was new to me. I had a great time! When the meeting concluded, we were given readings on the theme of “landscape and mediascape” to read and write about. At first when I sat down to tackle the readings, I did so with the science-minded framework I’m used to – locate the research question(s), identify the data, review the discussion and interpretation. I quickly discovered this approach will not work with these readings or this museum project (or anything related to this residency!). I spend a lot of time thinking about landscapes to be sure – mortuary landscapes and how biological data fits in and on them in my dissertation research; gendered landscapes and how female students operated in and on them in my CAP research – but I had never thought about the visual process of creating and maintaining knowledge of a landscape. I believe this contemporary art perspective will be not only a great challenge to adapt to (and see my own work from and within), but will also give me new and innovative ways through which to address archaeological landscapes and data.
Trevor Paglen is interested in what can most easily be termed a “classified landscape” (those areas that, through military force, are considered off limits or even non-existent). Though the mechanisms are different through time and space, this theme of restriction is present in all archaeological research. There are always spaces that are restricted for complex combinations of social, political, and economic reasons that are shaped by a host of cultural factors. I’m working hard to digest Paglen’s work while also relating it to my own – I believe the uniting theme will be that we are both searching for information that is, in part, “hidden in plain sight.” Paglen is examining the military installations and drones that we know exist but are not able to see, or the government buildings that are outwardly visible to the public but absolutely restricted in access (point of fact – Paglen published the second known photo of the National Security Administration, a highly visible space with invisible activities). I am examining the campus past that is under the ground we walk on, in the buildings we enter, and preserved in the records on campus. The past is here right in front of or below us, but it’s hidden. It straddles that visible/invisible line.
Below I will share my first attempts at my first blog entry for the Broad Art Museum writing residency. I hope that readers of this CAP blog will think about these themes of surveillance, restriction, and constraint (all addressed in Paglen’s work) in terms of your own archaeological interests or research.
In a 2013 interview with the Center for the Study of the Drone, Paglen discussed his interest in “the line that separates vision from knowledge,’ acknowledging that material evidence does not often come to the forefront of his work. Rather, his images provide the foundation for a conversation, a questioning of the limits of knowledge, and an examination of how and why those limits came to be drawn. Because Paglen’s subject matter is defined by secrecy, constraint, and restriction by various government entities, he seeks to examine, at least in part, the mechanisms by which this secrecy is created, reproduced, and legitimized. The products of this state-sponsored secrecy are the “blank spots on the map” (per Paglen’s book by the same title). How are these spots designed and engineered, and by whom? Why do we, the public, respect these boundaries? Why do we accept secrecy as a precondition to our safety? What of those secrets that are not particularly “secret” at all yet still hindered by underreporting or selective invisibility? How does a general, yet amorphous, knowledge that secrecy exists – in some place, some plane, some form unknown to us – colonize the public thought?
From an archaeologist’s perspective, these themes are present in history and prehistory in every complex hierarchical culture. But, Paglen’s raises an interesting question: Does material evidence make what we know (or think we know) about a landscape more “real”? Does absence of evidentiary material matter? How can we fill in the gaps? These are questions that archaeologists have always considered in their work.
In the Center for the Study of the Drone interview Paglen stated that, “…the images are taken from so far away, through so much dust and haze and heat, that while it’s a photograph of a site, it’s also a photograph of what it looks like when you’ve pushed the physical properties of your vision as far as they will go. It’s a photograph of a place, but it’s literally a photograph of what it looks like when your physical capacity to see collapses, or begins to collapse.” I related this quote directly to archaeology! While Paglen is discussing the difficulties in seeing and documenting real-time objects or events on the visible, horizontal landscape, archaeologists are wrestling with these same issues on a (usually) invisible, vertical plane (sometimes many feet below the current ground surface).
Campus Archaeology at the Broad Art Museum: Exploring Gendered Spaces in a Conceptual Writing Residency Program
I am pleased to announce that I was accepted to the Spring 2015 Writing Residency program at the Broad Art Museum (support by the Department of English and the Graduate School as well). Five other graduate students from the departments of English, Film Studies, and […]