You may have noticed a large amount of construction going on around Beal Street and Michigan Avenue, in fact there are three different construction projects going on. Two of these have already begun around the Beal Street Entrance to campus, and are of major interest …
You may have noticed that the area around Michigan Avenue from Harrison Road to East Grand River Road is completely covered with construction equipment, orange cones, and various people in neon yellow. In a half mile radius there are three different construction projects that are …
When I arrived to work last week, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that we would be surveying the old Botany Greenhouses, particularly since I’ve walked by them for several years and, in passing, have always wondering about it’s “story.” The old Botany Greenhouses are slated for demolition sometime around January 2013. This complex consists of two greenhouses (one of which has already been torn down) and one headhouse and is located east of Old Botany and next to Lot 7 in the north academic district.
Why are the buildings being torn down? According to Physical Plant, the structures are relatively aged (~81 – 100 years old) and, because of safety hazards, were deemed to be unsafe and, as a result, are no longer in use.
Why are we documenting and mapping it? Once the building is razed it will be a green space. If future archaeologists survey or excavate here we need to have a record of what was there. The greenhouses had a number of ponds and an interesting landscape that could be confusing if future archaeologists were to dig it up without a reference.
At first glance, from the outside, the greenhouse looked run-down, abandoned, and decrepit. Once we gained access inside to carry out our survey work, my colleagues and I took a few moments to visually poke around the place, noting all of the invasive/pioneer species growing throughout. Soil was upturned, vine-y plants had forged unexpected pathways, and snippets of old identification cards were strewn throughout – with familiar Linnaean classificatory names such as Brassicaceae. We carried on with our assignment and took a series of measurements, such as the perimeter of the greenhouse, various depths, and remaining wooden walkway.
According to the Student Greenhouse Project, the nearby greenhouse and its accompanying “Butterfly House” were multi-functional and were used for various student activities, such as poetry readings, drum-circles, and concerts. In addition to being used as an educational facility, the local community used these spaces for weddings; health walks for heart patients from nearby Sparrow Hospital, and educational tours for elementary students from as far away as Saginaw Bay. For more on this, please visit the Student Greenhouse Project website for more information and be sure to check out their photos that document the recent history of these nearby greenhouses!
If you’ve been following our twitter feed or facebook, you know that we are hard at work surveying beneath the sidewalks around Linton Hall and Beaumont Tower. As part of the campus construction, a majority of the sidewalks within the sacred space are being renovated. …
Over the next three days, Campus Archaeology is going to be doing an archaeological survey of the soil underneath the sidewalks North of Beaumont Tower. As part of the constant campus construction, they are going to be replacing sections of the sidewalks within the Sacred Space throughout the Fall. The cement is removed, and the ground underneath is left untouched for a number of days to allow Campus Archaeology to conduct a survey. Last week we shovel tested under the walks between Linton Hall and the MSU Museum. This week we will be testing the walks North of Beaumont Tower, and in a few weeks we will be just East of the MSU Museum. As said in a post last week, looking under the sidewalks is important because the cement protects anything that is underneath it from being disturbed. This means we have a higher chance of finding something historic, or even prehistoric!
This area in particular is important because it is the front yard of College Hall. We had previously found part of the foundation of College Hall when the sidewalks directly around Beaumont Tower were removed. The area we are working in won’t have any new campus buildings, but we may find a trash site or some of the original sidewalks. It is also quite close to the area where we found the prehistoric site during our 2011 field school.
Come out and say hi!
On June 7th during an excavation in West Circle Drive we recovered a paperclip. Now, you should know that we don’t keep anything that is definitely modern. We don’t keep the crushed beer cans from tailgating or the McDonald’s straws from littering. We did keep …
Navigating campus this summer has been an adventure. While Construction Junction has posed some challenges for drivers and pedestrians alike, we at Campus Archaeology love these opportunities to excavate alongside construction crews: surveying under sidewalks is made considerably easier with their helpful removal of pavement, and on occasion they even backfill for us (the archaeologist’s least favorite activity)!
Construction is proceeding at a fast and furious pace, with most projects on – if not ahead of – schedule. This presents us with some unique challenges that are, as David Ives would say, “all in the timing”. With multiple projects all across campus, all moving ahead at their own rates, one of the main responsibilities of the Campus Archaeologist is to monitor these changes – in some cases, even before they occur – so that these publicly-funded construction projects can proceed as smoothly as possible. So: how does she do it?
A: lots of meetings, lots of e mails, and daily tours of campus.
1. Construction Junctions. Everyone – MSU student, employee, fan, or neighbor – is invited to attend the monthly meetings about campus construction projects. (Anyone who knows why ‘Construction Junctions’ is a fantastic name for this joint venture gets a high five from this archaeologist.) Along with those monthly meetings are weekly emails, summarizing major changes in traffic flow. At these meetings we find out about upcoming projects (and get to see all the best new campus additions), and can ear-mark both upcoming fieldwork and archival research: hearing about the demolition of the State Police Depot – including the stables and police lodgings – gave us some great research ideas (did you know that the police lodgings had a pool?).
2. Unit Cost Projects. While large projects (like steam tunnel removal) are the focus of Construction Junctions updates, for those every day “small” projects – drain replacements, sidewalk removals, new loading docks – the Unit Cost are some of the fastest moving projects on campus. We receive updates detailing the work ahead, and the priorities for the upcoming week. A sidewalk removal may be replaced later that day (remember, we can’t excavate under it until it’s been removed!) so frequent visits to key points of interest, and remaining in close contact with project managers, are key.
3. Archival research. Just because someone, somewhere on campus, is building, demolishing, or redoing something doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll find Campusu Archaeology at work there. The campus landscape that we see today has a number of hidden, below-ground dimensions that have altered the land beneath. While the steam tunnels are a perfect example of this, street lighting, sewers, and communication tunnels are just three examples of what lies beneath the placid tree spaces and busy sidewalks of campus. And as much as we appreciate having street lights and sewers, where these are found Campus Archaeology is not going to find much else. To save ourselves from accidentally “discovering” electrical lines and sewers, we constantly consult maps of campus. In this example, construction between Eustace-Cole and Marshall-Adams has opened up an area that we rarely see.
At first we were quite interested – The buildings are well over 100 years old – but then we looked at the maps from the MSU Physical Plant, and found this:
Electrical, communication, and power lines. As much fun as it is to excavate, in this example excitement is nullified by 1) the realization that we already know what we will find – i.e., electrical lines, and 2) the visualization of putting a metal shovel through one of these electrical lines.
We chose not to investigate that area further – although we do continue to peak through fences into new and widening construction holes. Just in case.
4. Campus walk-abouts. The final way we keep tabs on upcoming and ongoing field work is also why, if you’re ever lost on campus, it may be wise to ask the archaeologist. One of the best parts of this job is the daily walks around campus. (I try not to think of it as “surveying my domain”.) Sometimes maps, photos, and descriptions just aren’t as useful as looking at something yourself. The route varies but in June has tended to follow West Circle Drive to Chestnut Lane, the steps of the Hannah Administration Building (all of the previous on foot), over to the dorms on the East side, then a look in at Spartan Village.
All this, and PhD research too? The Campus Archaeology Program has a lot of work on its hands. Thankfully, MSU employees are some of the most knowledgeable University fans, and helpful suggestions and resources come our way with gratifying frequency. Last Friday an unknown campus pedestrian stopped to ask us about our conclusions regarding this 1×2 m test excavation:
Lots of 19th century building material, used as fill. But filling what?
The inquiring visitor came by again ten minutes later, this time with a period photo of the area, and pointed out the pond visible in just that location… Many thanks to our mystery historian!
If you have some MSU history to share, or are curious to see what we’re learning, stop by our excavations!
As archaeologists, we often appear as curious creatures to those individuals who are unfamiliar with our work. Unlike most professions whose employees call a cubicle their home base, archaeologists spend their days out in the field digging holes or trenches, but only when our heads …