Starting the New Semester and Attending SHA 2021

Starting the New Semester and Attending SHA 2021

Over the next few days MSU will be welcoming some students back and opening up for some in-person and many virtual classes.  For CAP, the beginning of a new semester would typically mean welcoming new undergraduate interns, preparing outreach events, and jumping back into our sometimes crowded lab. Of course, this year is different, lab work and research will continue, but only for our graduate fellows.

This is a recording of CAP’s presentation at the 2021 SHA conference. We were part of a session on Great Lakes Archaeology. Captions for this video are available under settings (three vertical dots).

One thing we are excited for this semester is sharing with our audiences the artifacts we recovered from the Service Road Construction Project last summer. Construction workers uncovered a large trash dump, or midden, dating from the 1930s up to the 1960s. Our research in the fall has revealed that some of the artifacts, particularly the child-related toys and clothing, may be from the post-World War 2 temporary housing for married veterans and their families known as “G.I. Village”.

These two images show segments of the historic midden uncovered in the construction trenches last summer. There are arrows pointing to the midden areas, which are pockets of much darker soil, suggesting burning.
These images show segments of the historic midden uncovered in the construction trenches last summer. In some areas there were more artifacts than dirt. CAP collected only a small portion of these artifacts, what we call a “representative sample”. Photos taken by Dr. Camp.

CAP recently presented some of these findings at the 2021 Society for Historical Archaeology Virtual Conference. Our presentation was part of a session on Great Lakes archaeology, which included many great archaeologists from around Michigan. Due to the virtual nature of the conference, our presentation has been recorded, which means we can share it across our social media.

 Our presentation is entitled “The Archaeology of Children on Michigan State University’s Campus” and explores the history of children on Michigan State University’s campus through the lens of archaeological and archival data. We focus on three areas of campus that feature evidence of children’s presence on campus since the university’s founding in 1855.

This image shows map of MSU campus with the locations of child related areas highlighted in various colors. The map shows our identification of four distinct time periods of child-rerated areas at MSU. The earliest (1857 – 1927) includes Faculty Row and Saints’ Rest, two central areas at the early campus. The next period (1927 – 1947) shows a dramatic contraction of child-related spaces on campus, mainly at the university preschool near to what is now the student union. The third and fourth periods show a growth of child-reated areas with the massive influx of students and faculty after World War 2. This area is to the far south of campus, showing that children and family related spaces were placed far com the centers of campus. Our study focuses on Saints' Rest, Faculty Row, and MSU post World War 2 temporary housing complexes.
This map shows the locations of child related areas at MSU across four time periods. Our study focuses on Saints’ Rest, Faculty Row, and MSU post World War 2 temporary housing complexes.

‘The first site is Saints’ Rest, which was built in 1875 and was destroyed by fire in 1876. It was the first dormitory on campus and it was an all-male dormitory that also housed college staff and their families. Excavations of a privy near Saints’ Rest identified a porcelain doll and a porcelain “Frozen Charlotte” figurine, both strongly associated with children in the 19th century.

The second site is known as Faculty Row. It dates from 1857 to the 1910s and was the first housing established for faculty at MSU. From archival evidence we know that faculty and staff often joined the children in play and invited them into laboratories and other campus spaces.

Lastly, we look at the expansion of MSU’s campus due to the GI Bill, which included welcoming numerous families and housing them on campus from 1945 to 1959. MSU constructed housing for thousands of veterans and their family members, growing its student body from 8,000 people in 1946 to 16,000 students in 1949. In the summer of 2020 amid the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, the lives of these post-WWII families were unearthed during a construction project. Child-related artifacts recovered included a plastic toy microscope; a plastic toy doll; a plastic toy car; Pyrex glass baby bottles; children’s shoes; a ceramic creamer featuring bunny rabbits; and a child’s red mitten.

We hope you enjoy the presentation, if you have any questions feel free to comment below or on any of our social media. We at CAP are looking forward to sharing additional information about this project as we learn more. Many, many hours will be spend doing the dirty work of washing and cataloguing artifacts and we are hoping to share that process throughout the semester.

Artifacts (left to right; top row to bottom) – Identified by CAP fellow Emily Milton.

  • Red nylon mitten – This small, right-handed children’s mitten is made from of a red nylon with a white nylon interior. The glove appears to have a felted wool or synthetic insulation. Nylon was created in the 1940s, providing an estimate for the earliest age for the mittens.
  • Yellow plastic toy car – This toy car was identified as a “VTG Renwal Products No. 39 Convertible” and dates to the 1950s. The car was found and presented by a construction worker on Service Road with a red plastic roof (not pictured).
  • Irwin Co. Celluloid Baby Doll – This doll was likely made between 1940-1947 by the Irwin Corporation. It is composed of celluloid and includes a small squeaker at the base of the back of its head. Squeaker toys were common in the 1940s. Celluloid is a plastic material that was outlawed in 1947 due to its highly flammable nature.
  • Pyrex® Evenflo® glass baby bottle – This bottle composed of Borosilicate glass, which Pyrex used from 1915 to 1988. The bottle design, sold as early at 1927, has a unique six-sided design which prevents the bottle from rolling.
  • Small, child-sized shoes – unknown date and manufacturer.
  • Roseville Pottery Company Bunny Creamer – This small creamware creamer was part of a ceramics line known as “Juvenile,” called that because they were designed to be used by children. The line was produced from 1910 to the early 1920s and featured a variety of animals, including ducks, pigs, rabbits, dogs, chicks, and cats.
  • Toy, plastic microscope – unknown date and manufacturer.


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