Year-end Wrap-up Part I
My first few months as Campus Archaeologist have been a very enlightening and rewarding experience. This position has given me the opportunity to understand archaeology from the other side, that of project manager. Unlike my previous experience, being Campus Archaeologist requires me to keep in constant contact with MSU Infrastructure and Planning (and several other subsets) to keep ahead of all projects, coordinate with the construction companies in charge of each project and justify to them why CAP is important, organize a crew to aid in our survey/excavation/monitoring (because we rely on grad students and undergrads, the crew is constantly changing due to class and research schedules), and finally to collect and organize the data for public consumption. While the learning curve for this position was quite steep, every newly learned aspect of the job will pay-out tenfold in its applicability.
Beyond the day-to-day communications and coordinations, the public outreach that is entailed has been very rewarding. CAP participated in Michigan Archaeology Day at the Michigan Historical Museum where hundreds of people stopped by our booth to inquire about our program. Additionally, we created activities for the MSU Science Fest school day, where six school groups learned excavation techniques and artifact identification. Finally, I organized a Campus Archaeology Coffee Hour during the Society for American Archaeology Conference, where a handful of other campus archaeology programs and aspiring programs discussed how best to coordinate such a program.
And now we are gearing up for summer construction season. There are several construction projects taking place throughout the summer, so follow our blog and keep up with what we’re finding.
I am in the midst of writing up the final report for Dig the Past, and I am pleased to share that at final count, our seven monthly workshops reached over 500 museum visitors. 500! (That’s not even counting all the people who participated in Michigan Archaeology Day on October 12 at the State Historical Museum – while about 625 visitors in total attended that event, we don’t know exactly how many visited our activities in the children’s room, but it’s likely we had at least 100 participants that day.)
I am so pleased overall with how the program ran. At times I felt like a ringmaster or a conductor (or even a plate-spinner), trying to keep on top of several activities at once, but because of the excellent and reliable work from the student facilitators, and the cooperation between the MSU Museum and CAP, I knew I could focus on my part and trust that the rest was in good hands. Dependable collaborators are absolutely worth their weight in gold.
Moving forward, I am applying the lessons I gained from this project towards a new (albeit related) program, born of the partnership between Campus Archaeology and the MSU Museum, that we are calling C.A.M.P. : the Campus Archaeology Museum Program. This will be a 5-day summer day camp for middle-school-aged children this August, held at the MSU Museum. I am currently working on the curriculum for C.A.M.P. with Erica, Katy, and Blair (all of CAP affiliation). Our intent is to provide the day campers a series of activities that go far more in-depth with the ins and outs of archaeological investigation than what we were able to offer with Dig the Past. I am excited to continue this line of work!
In January I joined Adrainne Daggett, creator of Dig the Past workshop series, and helped in the planning of its hands-on and family-oriented activities. Together, we expanded the workshop to include an activity and informational displays geared towards our adults visitors, such as an excavation activity, a poster display of key archaeological terms, and a small poster exhibit that explained the process of archaeological research and how it relates to the scientific method. We added these displays to coincide with existing workshop activities, such as simple digging and screening area, mapping, artifact investigation, and working with clay.
The popularity of the Dig the Past workshops have led to the development of a summer camp for children in the 4th through 6th grades. Sponsored by the Campus Archaeology Program and the MSU Museum, this camp will take place during the first week of August and will focus on hands-on activities that teach students about what archaeology is and its key concepts and processes such as, artifact identification, data collection and hypothesis development, surface survey, and excavation techniques.
Being a part of Campus Archaeology this past year has given me the opportunity to learn a new facet of archaeology work, maintain my GIS skills, and participate in some wonderful evens. First, my major project this year was getting archaeological site numbers for the various campus areas that we have surveyed and excavated. The process required that I write up an argument for why each archaeological site was worthy of getting an official state number – basically why the sites are important archaeologically. It was an interesting project that helped me learn a different side of archaeology- the administrative side.
Second, I was able to continue to hone my skills in geographic information systems, as well as my mentorship of an undergraduate in this tool. Knowing GIS requires constant practice and updating of skills with new iterations of the program and changes with software updates. By continuing my role in updating the Campus Archaeology GIS, I assure that my skills are up to date. Further, by having an undergraduate to teach, it requires that I need to be able to explain it in an understandable way as well as demonstrate proper use.
Finally, I was able to participate in a lot of cool events. I ran a Campus Archaeology sponsored workshop for graduate students on Digital Learning Day, and participated in the Day of DH. I also got the chance to help with Science Fest by volunteering for Adrianne’s amazing project, Dig the Past. As a Campus Archaeology graduate researcher, I get the chance to work with some great people on really interesting projects that truly have an effect on Michigan State University’s campus. I’m excited to continue my work on accessioning our artifacts now that we have site numbers, and continuing to participate in campus events!