Doing the Dishes: Institutional Ceramics from the Service Road Collection

Doing the Dishes: Institutional Ceramics from the Service Road Collection

Construction along Service Road in 2020 found a mid-20th-century midden. The artifacts found were associated with the history of temporary post-World War II student housing on Michigan State’s campus. After the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, or the GI Bill, became law, college enrollment increased 

Summer fun with “Spartan Solar”

Summer fun with “Spartan Solar”

This last summer, I had the amazing opportunity to be a part of CAP Crew, the group of MSU Archaeology (or archaeology-curious) students that conduct the compliance archaeology during the summer. Although, there is significantly more paperwork and lab work than there is fieldwork – 

3D Prints and Public Outreach: A Refit Activity

3D Prints and Public Outreach: A Refit Activity

In CAP this year, we’ve been brainstorming about public outreach activities. We’ve been focusing on activities for kids – who sometimes need a little extra help engaging with archaeological materials. This is my first year as a graduate student at MSU, and my first year being a CAP fellow, so I was excited to see how kids engaged with the activities that CAP already uses at outreach events. The activity that kids were most drawn to, and that they spent the most time on, had been created by former Campus Archaeologist, Jeff Burnett. It’s a artifact refit activity: a broken ceramic plate with magnets set along the edges of the paste so that participants can put the pieces back together. There are weak points to this activity, however. The plate sherds are heavy and the plate is slightly concave, so while magnets keep the sherds together while held in place, when the plate is set down some magnets pull apart as the plate succumbs to gravity and loses its concavity. Furthermore, the magnets protrude from the sherd edges enough that the gaps between sherds warp the shape of the vessel. Jeff Burnett, who created this activity, did an excellent job, and kids love it. Would it be possible to maintain the efficacy of the activity and troubleshoot its limitations to create a sort of sherd refit activity 2.0?

The image depicts the original outreach activity described in this blog post. It shows 9 sherds or two distinct ceramic vessels, each with magnets placed in holes drilled into the paste. Several sherds are articulated, showing how the activity works.
The refitting activity designed by Jeff Burnett.

I started by addressing the gaps between the sherds that were caused by the protruding magnets. Could we use magnetic paint instead? Campus archaeologist, Ben Akey, bought magnetic paint to experiment with. We agreed, however, that magnetic paint might not be strong enough to hold ceramic sherds together. How could we address the heaviness of the sherds? Enter: 3D printing.

Image depicts a Ultimaker 3 Extended 3d Printer in the process of creating a print using yellow fillament.
The DHI Lab Ultimaker 3D – working away!

My graduate assistantship at MSU includes working in the DHI lab, so I have access to structured light scanners, photogrammetry equipment, and 3D printers. Could I scan plate sherds and print them? 3D prints are much lighter than ceramics. Perhaps the lighter material would enable us to use magnetic paint on the sherd edges.

Now for the fun part: breaking a plate! (Of course, I could have chosen something other than a plate, but it’s what I had handy!) I chose a plate that had some geometric patterning on it. These patterns would show up on the 3D printed sherds and guide the refitting process. I put the plate in a plastic bag and dropped it on the floor. I chose to drop it on the floor, rather than, say, hitting it with a hammer, because I wanted to create a break pattern that would more accurately mimic real life. Putting it in the bag (thanks to a suggestion from my colleague and CAP fellow, Emma Creamer) so that the pieces wouldn’t fly all over the DHI Lab!

Broken plate: check! Now I had to start scanning (pictured above). I used an Artec Space Spider Scanner and a hand-powered turntable. I secured each sherd with clay, because any jiggling would prevent a clean scan. So far, I’ve scanned 5 of the 7 sherds that make up the plate. Soon I will start 3D printing, paint the edges with magnetic paint, and test out this activity! Stay tuned!

Archaeology, Communities, and Civil Rights: A Review of the 2022 Midwest Historical Archaeology Conference

Archaeology, Communities, and Civil Rights: A Review of the 2022 Midwest Historical Archaeology Conference

As we near the end of the semester, I want to reflect on one of my favorite experiences of fall 2022: the Midwest Historical Archaeology Conference! This year’s conference was organized by: Dr. Michael S. Nassaney, Professor Emeritus of Western Michigan University; our own Director 

Another day, another mystery in the CAP lab…

Another day, another mystery in the CAP lab…

While cataloguing artifacts from Service Road, we stumbled across an intriguing piece of a milk glass jar featuring an applied color label with bright red and blue hues. I say it was intriguing because many of the artifacts we have left from Service Road are 

Welcome to 2022-2023

Welcome to 2022-2023

Greetings! This is Dr. Stacey Camp, Director of the MSU Campus Archaeology Program. This past year has been one of constant change for our program. We have a new Campus Archaeologist, Ben Akey, after saying goodbye to our last Campus Archaeology, Jeff Burnett. We have managed to keep our program running amid still evolving COVID-19 protocols. And, as discussed in the previous blog post, we returned to running an archaeological field school this summer after two summers without one!

This past week I had the pleasure of celebrating my colleague Dr. Jodie O’Gorman’s career and life’s work as a Midwestern archaeologist at the 2022 Midwest Archaeology Conference. Jodie was an essential part of our program’s earliest days. I also had the chance to present a paper in her honor at a symposium comprised of her colleagues, friends, and former students. The symposium just happened to be organized by none other than our program’s founder and former director, Dr. Lynne Goldstein. The symposium also featured many former MSU Campus Archaeology Program Fellows and Campus Archaeologists.

I chose to give a talk (with Ben Akey and Jeff Burnett) on the work we continue to do on life on MSU’s campus directly after World War II. During my talk, I shared an October 1947 Ladies Home Journal article I happened upon in MSU’s University Archives and Historical Collections. This article examined the lives of veteran students’ wives and children. It also featured some really incredible colorized and black and white photographs of students and campus from 1947.

Richard Wilcox, October 1947, “Spartan Wives,” Ladies Home Journal.

As we have detailed in previous blogs, life on campus during this time period was very different than life on campus today. After World War II, campus transformed into a place that was welcoming to veterans using the GI Bill to pursue an education. President Hannah had the foresight to plan for veterans and their families to live on campus, seeking out millions of dollars to support the construction of temporary housing known as “Spartan City” or “Spartan Village” (the latter not to be confused with today’s Spartan Village).

Families of this generation, who were known as the “GI Generation or Greatest Generation,” delayed having children both due to the Great Depression and World War II, which resulted in the “Baby Boom” or “Boomers” generation in post-WWII America. As a result, hundreds of children lived on campus during the late 1940s and 1950s. When veterans moved into Spartan City, their wives immediately organized to address the needs of these growing households. They created a social and educational organization known as “Spartan Wives.” Spartan Wives helped build a nursery at which both parents were expected to work; they organized charities to support families (on and off campus) in need; they organized medical clinics to help care for the numerous children; they championed activist causes, especially ones that supported women’s access to healthcare and an education; and they established numerous educational opportunities for women and children living in Spartan City. Spartan Wives were awarded “Ph.T.” degrees (which stood for “pushed hubby through”) when their husbands graduated from MSU. These are just a few of the many activities in which Spartan Wives engaged.

Photograph of one of the Spartan Wives as documented by the Ladies Home Journal, “Spartan Wives” (Richard Wilcox, October 1947).

The Spartan Wives’ archives are housed at MSU’s University Archives and Historical Collections, including scrapbooks that detail the rich experiences of club members throughout the club’s history. Many of the artifacts that we recovered during this summer’s archaeological field school (2022) and the summer of 2020’s construction project on Service Road are directly associated with the people who lived on campus immediately following World War II.

Photograph of one of the many photographs found of Spartan City in the MSU University Archives and Historical Collections, Spartan Wives Scrapbook – 1946-1948, Box 2449, Vol 1., 1946-1948, UA 12.3.31.

After spending many hours in the Spartan Wives’ archives, I have been struck by the parallels between the late 1940s and our contemporary world. Both time periods involved rebuilding amidst societal stress and turmoil. The Spartan Wives experienced extreme hardship. When they arrived at Spartan City, they found housing to still be under construction. In some cases, families had to share communal bathing and showering facilities. A Michigan State News article dating to April 23rd, 1948, described Spartan City as follows: “Sand-swept ‘lawns,’ potholed streets, unpainted dwellings, and field problems plague the residents of Spartan City after the inauguration of their local ‘reform’ government…”

Edna Brookover, pictured above with her children (MSU University Archives + Historical Collections, Wilbur Brookover Papers, “Life in Faculty Quonset Village on Cherry Lane – 1946,” Folder 1, Box: File Drawer, Collection, UA 17.156), described life in temporary housing for faculty, some of which comingled with Spartan Village. She wrote a manuscript entitled “Life in Faculty Quonset Village on Cherry Lane – 1946” in 1990, which is held at MSU’s University Archives and Historical Collections. As the wife of a faculty member, Edna had firsthand knowledge of what life was like in Spartan Village. Of the housing complex, she wrote: “Although the buildings were not finished inside, everyone was moving in. For a while some had to use their neighbor’s bathrooms. The Village was teeming with all ages of children, parents, trucks, and workmen” (Brookover, 1990, p. 9).

What can we learn from life on campus after WWII? Despite the tragedies and horrors witnessed by the Greatest Generation, they were able to survive with the little they had. They formed communal bonds with fellow classmates and Spartan City residents, building clubs, nurseries, and mutual aid societies to help others. They started to envision a new campus, one that was broader than the smaller study body it had previously served. As we move forward in these challenging times for both MSU and our world, I think it is best to look back in time and find inspiration in how previous students, staff, and faculty persisted and relied upon each other amid extraordinary obstacles.

Stacey Camp

A Look Back at CAP’s 2022 Field School

A Look Back at CAP’s 2022 Field School

This past summer, the Campus Archaeology program had the opportunity to offer a field school to archaeology students from MSU and across the state—our first field school since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. Directly taking part in ongoing CAP research into life in the 

Meet our 2022-2023 CAP Fellows

Meet our 2022-2023 CAP Fellows

First things first — Thanking our former Campus Archaeologist As we move into the new academic year and welcome a new set of CAP Fellows, we also say our farewells to Jeff Burnett, our outgoing Campus Archaeologist. Jeff oversaw the program in a challenging era, 

Scenes of Summer at Michigan State

Scenes of Summer at Michigan State

Summer in Michigan brings warm weather, thunderstorms, beach days and, for Campus Archaeology at least, shovel testing, construction monitoring, and CAP’s on campus field school. As we head into a new summer of Campus Archaeology we recap some of the great projects our impressive CAP fellows completed this year and introduce the 2022 field school, which starts Monday, May 23. But first, this year’s CAP Crew looks a bit different, other than Campus Archeologist Jeff Burnett, ever crew member is new to CAP. We also have a greater mix of first time archaeologist – we are bound to have an exciting summer as we learn how to protect and mitigate the cultural heritage of Michigan State’s historic campus. Meet the 2022 CAP Crew: Jeff Burnett, Michael Collins, Emma Creamer, Jayli Husband, Gabrielle Moran-O’Dell, Spencer Phaneuf, Sydney Spaulding, Fatima Vega-Colon, and Thomas Yan.

Field School

We are excited to return to hosting an field school after several years of being prevented from doing so by Covid, providing a valuable opportunity to train undergraduates in various aspects of archaeolo›gical research. Continuing within our recent focus on university life in the mid-twentieth century–CAP’s 2022 field school is focused on investigating an area of campus overlapping with the post-war “Spartan City”–a section of campus that was transformed into a sprawling temporary housing area during MSU’s rapid expansion following World War II and the passage of the GI Bill, which provided educational and housing funding for returning veterans and their families.

An oblique aerial image of the aforementioned post-war temporary housing area on MSU's campus, facing roughly Southeast. The buildings are an assortment of various building forms, including long rectangular 'barracks' style apartments and half-cylinder buildings referred to as 'qounset huts'. In the distance, some more permanent structures can be made out, including the brick faculty buildings known as the 'faculty bricks'. The Jenison Fieldhouse can be seen in the center right of the photograph's foreground.
An oblique aerial image of the aforementioned post-war temporary housing area on MSU’s campus, facing roughly Southeast. The Jenison Fieldhouse can be seen in the center right of the photograph’s foreground. Image courtesy of University Archives and Historical Collections

Through archival research, oral histories, surveying, and excavation of this area of campus, field school students will contribute to ongoing research on this transformative era of MSU’s past while gaining valuable experience in research methodologies useful both within and beyond archaeology. Students will also work on cataloging and analyzing the backlog of materials from the Service Road landfill, designing thematically focused research projects on specific aspects of mid-century campus material culture.

Follow this link to learn about the amazing students attending the field school this year and stay tuned for updates throughout the summer!


In person outreach activities are slowly expanding in Michigan and this year CAP hosted our Apparitions and Archaeology Haunted Tour on campus, presented at Michigan Archaeology Day and MSU’s Science Festival, and created and distributed an artifact mystery quiz!

Digital Cultural Heritage

Adventure Lab

A core tenant of Campus Archaeology has been to share the cultural heritage of Michigan State with our MSU and Michigan communities whether they live in nearby or thousands of miles away. This year CAP Fellows Jack Biggs and Dr. Amber Plemons developed two walking tours of campus using “Adventure Lab” tool. We were originally hesitant to utilize this program – it is a paid service and we were not sure if the one tour, five-location limit could work for our purposes. However, we have found that it is easy to built tours with the tool, the five-site limit encouraged us to make thematic tours, and the ability to tap into the gigantic geocaching community make Adventure Lab a useful, if not perfect tool for sharing MSU’s history and beautiful campus.

qr code with link to
QR code for CAP’s Adventure Lab tours

Find the adventure lab app by clicking this link or scanning the QR code to the right.


Rhian Dunn and Aubree Marshall continued CAPs experimentation with Twine ( – an open-source tool for telling interactive, nonlinear stories. We have previously used Twine to create a tour of campus archaeology and a haunted tour of campus – focusing on storytelling as virtual self-guided tours. Our new Twine stories have different approaches:

Research, Conferences, and Publications

Other CAP projects are more behind the scenes – researching topics and writing for professional and public audiences. CAP published on campus archaeology in the Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Record newsletter and Dr. Camp guest-edited and wrote the introduction to the newsletter.

This year CAP fellows also presented at conferences. For the Midwest Archaeological Conference hosted by MSU, Rhian Dunn, Aubree Marshall, and Emily Milton presented a poster for on CAP’s digital outreach during the COVID-19 pandemic entitled, “Armchair Outreach: Campus Archaeology Program During a Pandemic”.

Other research explored the history of Spartan City – a temporary housing community, active from the mid-1940s – early 1960s, that housed World War 2 veterans and their families at Michigan State. Ben Akey and Aubree Marshall wrote blogs on this topic and CAP presented on the history and material culture (cosmetics, toiletries, and ceramics) of Spartan City for the 2022 Society for Historical Archaeology Conference ( This site will be the location of the upcoming 2022 field school and we are excited to see what more we can learn about this fascination community at MSU.

We had a wonderful year – if difficult – 2021-2022 and are looking forward to an exciting summer of archaeology, teaching, and learning! If you see CAP Crew or our field school, wave and stop to ask us questions!

SciFest ReCAP: The 2022 Artifact Mystery Quiz

SciFest ReCAP: The 2022 Artifact Mystery Quiz

Trick or Teach! Take the 2022 Mystery Artifact Quiz and learn more about the 2020 Service Road Project excavations.