Lessons Learned as Campus Archaeologist

Looking back at my tenure as Campus Archaeologist it’s clear that I’ve learned invaluable lessons in the past two years. Not only have I gained valuable skills in social media and public outreach, but I’ve been able to hone my archaeological skills. So here is a quick list of lessons learned.

I’ve learned how to mitigate the cultural heritage of MSU. Understanding how construction on campus is managed and balancing the multiple construction projects with the proper archaeology was a huge learning curve, but integral to my career. It’s important to cultivate relationships with construction companies across campus so they understand the importance of archaeology. While getting a call at 8am on a Saturday morning from construction letting you know they found something, can be annoying, it means the contractors see the necessity of archaeology.

I’ve learned that whether it’s your first find, or hundredth find it’s exciting. Discovering the unknown, or long forgotten can get the blood pumping every time. Finding that first artifact or feature and unraveling the data to get answers makes archaeology fun and rewarding. When we found the privy this summer it went from being a pile of burned brick to MSU’s first outhouse that revealed more about early campus than any archival document thus far.

I’ve learned to always expect the unexpected. Never assume that you won’t find any archaeology, because you will be sorely disappointed. When mitigating the construction on campus, you have to sometimes put priority on certain areas over others, for example we’re more likely to find archaeology on the north side of campus, but that doesn’t mean we can/should ignore the rest of campus.

I’ve learned you have to do your research…then do it again. Using multiple archival sources gives you a more complete picture of campus. When we discovered the original Vet Lab I had researched the area before construction began, but I neglected to look at pre-1890’s maps that had the Vet Lab labeled. I learned to think outside the box when collecting archival research.

Finally, I’ve learned that a solid crew makes the work easier and the archaeology more fun. It’s an important lesson to learn the value of a crew, one that you can trust to do the archaeology and that offer feedback and insight during projects.

While my tenure as Campus Archaeologist is up, I’m continuing as a CAP fellow where hopefully I can pass on my lessons learned and continue to hone my archaeological skills.

Author: Kate Frederick

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