Calling all Campus History Lovers!

Campus archaeology excavation
Campus archaeology excavation

This is a Campus Archaeology Intern Update by Paige

I’m sure you’ve seen us around campus at some point, with our large Campus Archaeology banner and a bunch of shovels to boot. We dig 2×2 meter test pits, and when we find an artifact, we take it from the earth, tag it, bag it, and bring it back to the lab. This semester I plan on making these artifacts available to the public online.

I’ll be using the program OMEKA in order to create an online museum exhibit, in which we’ll be able to place not only the artifacts we’ve found over the past two summers of excavation here at MSU, but to place with them some information that I’m gathering from the MSU Archives. Although you won’t be able to see the real life artifact, you’ll be able to see pictures of what we’ve found, right from the comfort of your own home (or office, or library, or wherever!)

Before I get to the part where I spend my whole life placing things in OMEKA and creating the exhibit, however, I’m spending some good quality time in the MSU Archives. (If you’ve never been, it’s definitely worth the visit, they have some awesome historical literature, and that includes a lot from campus.)

What I’ve been focusing on in my research so far has been The Eagle, a “newspaper” (they’re more like clippings) from a year and a half or so of our Campus’ history, starting in February of 1892. The Eagle was edited and published by Roscoe Kedzie, a 10 year old boy living on campus. Through reading these clippings, I’ve been able to find some that directly relate to the artifacts we’ve found over this past summer, as well as the summer before.

“The North Part of the Greenhouse is being glazed, 10 painters are at work. About 20 painters are at work on the college grounds.” –The Eagle, August 5, 1982.

Brick. Did we find bricks this summer or what? But not only did we find brick, we found some glazed brick (it has a completely different texture, color, and the glazes even come in different colors!) This was the first quote I found relevant to an artifact, and it almost passed me by until I realized when they say “painting” they mean glaze, not acrylic or oil paint. It felt really good finding substance to the artifacts you found in the ground.

By reading about how important the painting of these building were at the time, it made me feel like what I was doing as an archaeologist had even more worth than just finding surprises buried beneath my feet; I felt like all of it had a greater purpose, and that I was reviving the past.

Clump of hair excavated near Sleepy Hollow
Clump of hair excavated near Sleepy Hollow

A very interesting thing we were able to excavate this summer were locks of hair. Since this was one of the last things we were expecting, finding it came as a real shock. One more thing that came as a shock (but more of a jolt of awareness) was when reading through the Eagle I found a quote saying “Jackson the Lansing Barber has a chair in room 75 Wells Hall, is at the college every Friday afternoon and evening to do work in his line.”

Although I’m hoping to find more on the topic of where barber shops were (I’ve seen a lot of advertisements for a barber in Lansing) this was the first I found that said we even cut hair on campus, directly tying in with what we had found. Here’s to hoping!

So far, researching at the archives for my particular project has been not unlike digging a test pit: you don’t know what you’re going to find until you start digging, but  once you get into it, you find that you’re learning a whole lot more than just what it takes to find an artifact, or a quote. This summer as I dug, I found ants, green worms, hornets, and a very stubborn and friendly bee, just as in the archives I’ve found out much more about the people in the East Lansing area, their travels, their trials, and their doings. Not all of it is relevant to what my project is, but all of it is relevant to how it will shape my view of things.

Looking forward to updating you again soon! After all, there’s a lot more to the archives than just The Eagle, and I’m planning on finding it.

2 thoughts on “Calling all Campus History Lovers!”

  • Great blog post! You’re seriously way better at these than I ever was, haha.

    Also, the hair thing is seriously interesting. It must have been weird digging that up and bagging it… and touching it in general.

  • Thanks Alec!

    I wish I would have dug up the hair. 🙁 It was my group that excavated it, but that was the ONE DAY of Field School that I missed, talk about a bummer…. I thought they were joking when I came back.

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