Tag: Construction

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 – 

All the Names She Could not Bear

All the Names She Could not Bear

A Salty Tale I wanted this blog to be about patents, not Ruth Van Tellingen. Or should I call her Ruth Bendel? Or Ruth Elizabeth Thompson? I’m getting ahead of myself. Before we delve into Ruth’s life, let’s review the concept of patents as they 

Looking Back, Looking Forward

Looking Back, Looking Forward

Dr. Camp looking out at an archaeological site on MSU's campus wearing a hard hat and yellow vest.
Dr. Camp, Director of the MSU Campus Archaeology Program, photographed by Nick Schrader, IPF Visual Communications Manager. ©Nick Schrader, All Rights Reserved


For those of you just joining our blog for the first time, I am Dr. Camp, the Director of the MSU Campus Archaeology Program (CAP). I am entering my 5th year here at MSU, and my 13th teaching as a tenure track faculty member at a land grant university.

This past year and a half has been one filled with anxiety and challenges. We mourn all of the people lost to COVID and the substantial impact it has had on our lives.

While most of our campus was remote up until August 2021, CAP worked on construction projects during the pandemic to ensure the university remained in compliance with federal and state guidelines concerning below ground heritage.

We never stopped working.

In fact, this past year was one of the busiest for our program due to taking on a federal compliance project that involved campus, city, state, federal, and tribal agencies. We learned how to go through the Section 106 process with the aid of many on and off campus partners. This included assessing, mitigating, and monitoring the construction of a substantial bike pathway that transverses much of our beautiful campus. Our CAP fellows and staff spent the summer overseeing the project, laboring in the heat with masks on to keep each other safe.

The MSU Campus Archaeology Program (CAP) staff conducting shovel tests along the Red Cedar River as part of the Red Cedar Greenway bike path project, May 2021.

We also oversaw a substantial construction project at the beginning of the pandemic back in May 2020. The project lasted through August 2020. This project has resulted in several forthcoming publications and multiple public (online/remote) talks about our findings at conferences and at the MSU Science Festival in the spring of 2021. Artifacts from this construction site, which is located on Service Road, reveal campus life during the 1940s, 1950s, and early 1960s.

Children’s toys recovered by the MSU Campus Archaeology Program during the summer 2020 Service Road construction project.
A) Yellow plastic toy microscope; B) Celluloid squeaker doll likely made between 1940 and 1947 by the Irwin Corporation of New Hampshire; and C) Yellow plastic toy car likely manufactured by the Renwal Manufacturing Company dating from the 1940s to the mid-1950s.
Photographs taken by Autumn Painter, Campus Archaeologist from 2018 through the summer of 2020.

We oversaw a smaller, but equally important construction project involving the area known as Spartan Village, which is most recently used to house graduate students. Part of that property has been converted to build a new TechSmith building. After conducting substantial historical research on the property, we conducted a geophysical survey with the assistance of MSU alumni Dr. Duane Quates in the fall of 2020. We used Dr. Quates’ data to help inform test excavations on the site later during the 2020-2021 academic year. We monitored construction on the site this summer (2021), which revealed numerous artifacts and building foundations.

The MSU Campus Archaeology Program staff working at Spartan Village, the new location of TechSmith’s building. Summer 2021. Photographed by Nick Schrader, IPF Visual Communications Manager. ©Nick Schrader, All Rights Reserved

We also continue to be involved in tree plantings on campus to ensure dirt removed as part of their planting is screened for artifacts.

The MSU Campus Archaeology Program monitors tree plantings to ensure archaeological sites and artifacts are not disturbed.

We moved much of our traditionally in-person outreach to online formats, including a new digital tour of MSU’s historic Faculty Row and our annual Apparitions and Archaeology Haunted Tour.

Though our mission will remains clear – to protect and mitigate below ground resources on MSU’s campus while training students in archaeological research and public history – this year has also given us time and space to reflect upon what we have accomplished and what we would like to do for our community in the coming years. As we discussed in our blog last summer, we are working towards sharing more about the diverse communities who have lived and work on campus.

We have committed towards working closely with communities we have yet to serve in our surrounding region, but much of this work is on pause until we feel it is safe to do so. And while we have fallen short of some of our ambitious goals for this past year due to the burnt out, stress, and exhaustion that comes with living and working through a pandemic, we intend to keep them at the forefront of our planning for the coming years. We wish to work with the many communities who have resided on and owned MSU’s land and plan to develop policies that ensure proper consultation during construction projects.

I want to conclude by thanking all of our CAP staff and fellows for working so hard and learning to quickly adapt to in-flux new protocols during the COVID-19 pandemic. I also want to thank the many staff with whom we have worked this past year+ of a pandemic. I also want to thank the undergraduates who helped us this summer with cataloging amid still very stressful times. We appreciate the ongoing support for CAP.

What’s New CAP Crew? An Update on archaeology at MSU

What’s New CAP Crew? An Update on archaeology at MSU

Wow! Our summer season in 2021 was a complete turnaround from the 2020. The MSU graduate student archaeologists who joined CAP Crew this year worked on four major field and laboratory projects. From May to late-August members of the CAP Crew completed a federal compliance 

CAP Featured In the SHA Newsletter, Winter 2020

CAP Featured In the SHA Newsletter, Winter 2020

In December of 2020, CAP was proud to be included in the Society for Historical Archaeology’s (SHA) Newsletter for winter 2020 (download here). In an article written by CAP director Dr. Stacey L. Camp, former Campus Archaeologist Autumn Painter, and current Campus Archaeologist Jeff Burnett, 

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.
Campus Archaeology in the Time of COVID-19

Campus Archaeology in the Time of COVID-19

Greetings from Dr. Camp, the Director of the MSU Campus Archaeology Program. This summer has been one of great concern for our community and nation as well as one where we have had to rethink how we approach Campus Archaeology amid a global pandemic. Under 

Looking Ahead: Where to find CAP during summer 2019!

Looking Ahead: Where to find CAP during summer 2019!

While the ground may be covered with inches of snow, CAP is looking ahead to plan for summer construction, in addition to our undergraduate archaeological field school. As you would have read in a previous blog post, the field school will be taking place near 

Continuing Preparations for Summer Construction on Campus

Continuing Preparations for Summer Construction on Campus

As the weather warms and summer gets closer, the Campus Archaeology Program is gearing up for yet another busy season.

While our excavations occur primarily in the summer, months of planning and preparation take place before the first trowel is stuck in the dirt. Many different factors come into play when planning for an archaeological field season, particularly in Michigan during the Spring. Some of these are logistical. One of our first concerns is the frost line, which represents the depth to which the groundwater in the soil is expected to freeze. If the ground is still frozen, it makes excavating very difficult, and in some cases impossible. This is especially true for shovel tests, which are dug a meter into the ground. While the top 10-20 centimeters of soil may be thawed, soil may still be frozen at deeper depths. We also need to ensure that all of our equipment is ready for a busy field season. This means that we will be sharpening all of our shovels and trowels and making sure that our screens are in working shape. Aside from field equipment, we make sure that our field crew is prepared with the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). PPE refers to protective clothing, helmets, goggles, or other equipment designed to protect the wearer from injury. In construction zones, CAP crew members are always equipped with the proper protective clothing, as well a safety vest, helmet, and goggles!

Survey during sidewalk construction
Survey during sidewalk construction.

Strategic planning is also critical. The Campus Archaeology Program is preparing for many projects taking place across campus this summer. During our latest meeting with Matt Fehrenbach, a Project Manager/Supervisor at Infrastructure Planning and Facilities (IPF), we learned more about several projects taking place, including work near the Kellogg Center, the Henry Center, the Communication Arts Building, the Music Building, and Cowles House. Our great working relationship with IPF allows us to learn about these projects before they begin so we can plan the best way to mitigate any risk to archaeological deposits.

One of our initial steps, once we know a project’s area of impact, is to decide if the area warrants pre-construction shovel test survey and subsequent monitoring or just monitoring once the project begins. Typically, when construction is slated to take place in north and central campus, CAP will conduct a shovel test survey before construction begins in order to determine the presence and extent of any archaeological remains within the area of impact. This lets us work with the construction crews to mitigate the archaeological resources, and in some cases, the time to excavate and recover as much data as possible before the project continues.

Shovel test survey in construction zone.
Shovel test survey in construction zone.

Keep a look out for us this summer, as we are surveying and monitoring throughout campus in our yellow CAP vests!

Author: Autumn Painter

How to Prepare for a Summer of Construction on MSU’s Campus

How to Prepare for a Summer of Construction on MSU’s Campus

As all MSU students, professors, and staff know, MSU is continually improving their roads, sidewalks, sporting fields, etc. Each spring through fall, MSU’s campus is scattered with constructions sites with the goal of bettering the physical campus environment. While this activity is very visible, there