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 […]
For the past several years, the Capturing Campus Cuisine project has resulted in some wonderful collaborations and outreach opportunities between CAP and other MSU programs. Our partnership with MSU Culinary Services has resulted in a successful historic luncheon reconstruction and “throwback” meals with the MSU ON-THE-GO Food Truck.
Our latest collaboration is with the MSU Student Organic Farm (http://www.msuorganicfarm.org/) which was established to provide Michigan State University students with hands-on training in sustainable farming. It revives a tradition from the earliest days of the university, when it was known as the State Agricultural College, where students worked on the campus farms and gardens daily so they could put to practice what they learned in the classroom.
Those who follow us know that outreach is a big part of what we do in the Campus Archaeology Program. Every year, CAP participates in several public outreach events including Michigan Archaeology Day, Grandparents University, ScienceFest, and more. These events are important because it gives […]
This summer was an eventful one for the Campus Archaeology Program field crew! We monitored construction, conducted several pedestrian and shovel test surveys, excavated one test unit, conducted lab analysis, and helped with the IB STEM archaeology camp and grandparents university. Plus, we uncovered an […]
Here at CAP we think a lot about different ways of sharing our research. We can—and do—present at conferences, give public lectures, and publish site reports and journal articles. While these avenues are great for communicating our work to other experts, they are probably not the most effective ways of engaging the MSU community and the public. This blog is one way we communicate with the public about the campus heritage we uncover through our work. But how can we take this one step further and make the connection between campus heritage and campus space? One idea is to create an experience that turns MSU’s campus into a museum anyone can visit, with exhibits that not only showcase what we’ve discovered through archival and archaeological research, but also the processes involved in uncovering this knowledge.
The first iteration of this idea of campus as museum was msu.seum, a free mobile app that uses geopositioning to identify a user’s location on campus, point them to the nearest site of interest, and provide information on the history and archaeology of the site. Msu.seum was the outcome of collaboration between the Campus Archaeology Program, the Cultural Heritage Informatics (CHI) Initiative, and MATRIX: The Center for Digital Humanities and Social Science. The app was first designed and developed as part of the 2011 CHI Field School led by CHI director and MATRIX associate director Dr. Ethan Watrall. Content for msu.seum was developed by Dr. Goldstein and former Campus Archaeologist Terry Brock.
For my CAP project I have been working to update and help build a Campus Archaeology mobile experience on a new and improved platform that alleviates technical issues with the original msu.seum app and offers exciting new features. The new platform we are using is mbira, an open-source tool specifically designed for building and managing location-based and mobile cultural heritage experiences designed by MATRIX. The site we are building in mbira can be accessed as an app for Android and Apple devices, on mobile web browsers, and as a browser-based web app.
So, what exactly will the new Campus Archaeology mobile experience look like? The site has three major levels of organization: locations, exhibits, and explorations. Locations are the most basic level of organization. They appear as pins on an interactive map and are tied to real locations, including past and present campus buildings and sites CAP has excavated. When a user selects a location pin, they are provided with a description of the site’s history, similar to an artifact label in a traditional museum. Unlike traditional museums, locations also include a “Dig Deeper” section exposing the archaeological research that helped generate knowledge about that location, as well as a comment section. Our hope is that eventually users will be able to participate in conversations with us and other users to ask questions, share reactions, and contribute to our knowledge of campus sites.
Exhibits provide one option for users to experience locations. Exhibits connect several locations together based on an underlying theme. To date, we have created five permanent exhibits for the mobile experience. Four of these correspond to eras in campus history including Beginnings (1855-1870), Foundation (1870-1900), Expansion (1900-1925), and Legacy (1925-1955). Our fifth permanent exhibit, Discovery, includes locations associated with CAP’s archaeological investigations from 2005 to the present. Explorations provide another way for users to experience locations. Unlike exhibits, explorations join together locations intended to be experienced in a particular sequence. This feature could be used to create a self-guided tour.
So far, my work on this project has primarily focused on building the permanent exhibits. Last semester I updated content previously featured on msu.seum with findings from new investigations. I have also created new content that reflects more recent field schools and sites excavated since 2011. I am now putting the finishing touches on the permanent exhibits including attaching historical photos from MSU Archives and photos of artifacts and archaeological investigations to each of the 27 locations currently added to the site.
As we develop this Campus Archaeology mobile experience, we are continuing to think of new ways to build and expand. We hope to create temporary thematic exhibits and explorations that can be featured at different times throughout the year. One idea is to highlight and connect current CAP research—including research on sustainability, food, and gender—to locations on campus. Another idea is to create a Halloween exploration to coincide with the Haunted Tour Campus Archaeology cohosts with the MSU Paranormal Society.
While this project is still in development, we are looking forward to launching the site soon. In March, Dr. Watrall will be presenting a beta version at the Digital Humanities in the Nordic Countries conference in a paper titled “Towards an Approach to Building Mobile Digital Experiences for University Campus Heritage and Archaeology.” He will also be presenting on building mobile experiences for heritage and archaeology in this invited lecture. Stay tuned for the full launch of the CAP mobile experience later this year!
Like Mari Isa, for this blog post, I will be talking about the outreach event that CAP ran for Holmes Middle School in Livonia, MI on Friday, January 19th. However, I will be discussing it from a different point of view. In Mari’s blog, she […]
Given one hour, how do you teach 300 7th graders to think like archaeologists? This was the challenge presented to us when a group of teachers contacted CAP about doing an interactive event to introduce their 7th grade social studies students to archaeology. Although CAP […]
Outreach isn’t something out of the ordinary for CAP to do. We routinely participate in a wide variety of outreach events ranging from small groups to hundreds of people at large events like Sciencefest.
CAP was recently contacted by a group of Middle School teachers here in Michigan and asked if we would be interested in collaborating. This district had recently changed some of the social science curriculum to include more anthropology/archaeology and study of the ancient past. The teachers asked if we would be willing to come in and conduct an event that would allow their students to interact with archaeologists and to have the opportunity for hands on engagement.
So we were faced with a few new challenges – most hands on events we’ve done in the past are geared towards elementary school students and smaller groups. This event would need to cover 300 7th graders. Thankfully we would be covering individual classes with no more than 30 students per class and a maximum of 3 classes running at once.
We decided to create a “site in a box” activity. We selected sites that would provide a wide range of time periods, site types, and locations. The students will be provided with a worksheet that asks them to identify the artifacts, consider who the people that used them were, what time frame these objects are from, and where in the world the site may be. Each site box has 10-11 artifacts, and a series of additional clues like maps or site photos.
Site A – Alameda-Stone Cemetery
The Alameda-Stone cemetery is located in Tucson, Arizona. It was used by local community members from the early 1860s through 1881.
This sites artifacts include:
- Part of a shoe
- Coffin nails
- Coffin hardware
- Coffin Wood
The box also includes a map of the entire cemetery, a close up of an individual burial, and an artifact image.
Site B – Historic Privy on MSU’s Campus
The west circle privy was excavated in 2015. The artifacts in the structure date to the 1850s and 1860s. This is the only privy that has been located on campus.
This sites artifacts include:
- Raspberry seeds
- Fish bones
- Glass cup
- Egg shell
- Doll fragments
- Violin flask bottle picture
- Ceramic tea/coffee cup
Site C – Aztalan
We wanted to include a prehistoric site in the Midwest to be able to provide a local connection for the students. With Dr. Goldstein’s extensive experience at Aztalan it was an easy choice. The site of Aztalan is located in present day southern Wisconsin and was occupied between 1050 and 1200 AD.
This sites artifacts include:
- Shell beads
- Pot fragment
- *artifact photo
- Duck bones
- Photograph of mounds
- Photograph of stratigraphy
- Stone tool flakes
Site D – Mayan Cave Burial
The cave burial site of Actun Kabul was selected for site D. Actun Kabul (Actun is the word for cave in the Mayan language) is a cave deep within the jungles of Belize in Central America.
This sites artifacts include:
- Human bone
- Pot Fragment
- Figurine Fragment
- Pepper seeds
- Human teeth
- Stingray spine
- Glyph carving
We also provide the students with a map of the cave.
Site E – Professor Gunson’s Trash Pit
For our final site we selected the site the 2015 CAP field school excavated – Professor Gunson’s trash deposit.
This sites artifacts include:
- Laboratory equipment
- Vaseline Glass
- Window Glass
- Ketchup Bottle
- Ceramic plate
- Decorated ceramic
- Flower pot frag
Since we needed to make 15 total kits, there was no way we could include actual artifacts. The objects in the kits are a combination of online purchases, hunting at the University Surplus Store, donations from CAP fellows/faculty, and some creative saving (this week I boiled a chicken carcass for the bones, saved all of my egg shells, and picked out seeds from bell peppers). Each kit also contains an envelope with an answer key that identifies each of the artifacts, and provides a narrative of the site. The envelope also contains more details maps and photos of the archaeological site.
Today we’re putting these kits to the test! We’ll be posting throughout the day on social media, and stay tuned for a follow up post about the event later this month.
Happy Halloween! This past week the Campus Archaeology Program and the MSU Paranormal Society hosted their fourth annual Apparitions and Archaeology: A Haunted Campus Tour! While it was a little chilly out, we had a record number of attendees, with over 200 people touring! Similar […]