academic

MSU Campus Archaeology – Public Outreach

The Michigan State University Campus Archaeology Program (CAP) works to mitigate and protect archaeological resources on Michigan State University’s beautiful and historic campus.  Although the program was officially created in 2007, the first on-campus excavation occurred in 2005. The upcoming academic year (2017-2018) is bringing several big changes to the program: director Dr. Lynne Goldstein is retiring, and Dr. Stacey Camp was recently hired to take over as program director.  This means that we’re doing lots of behind the scenes house keeping to make sure that everything from the last 10+ years is in order before Dr. Goldstein’s retirement.  Additionally I’ve been serving as the campus archaeologist since 2015, and will be stepping down after May 2018 (when I will hopefully graduate!). That means I need to also have all of my materials well documented and in order so that the transition to the next campus archaeologist goes as smoothly as possible.

So, what does that means for me today? Today I’m working on a photo book documenting the last two years of CAP activity and projects. We distribute this book to university administrators, deans, board of trustees, etc. to highlight the wide variety of work CAP does. Obviously I’m still working on the 2016-2017 book, but below is a sample from the 2015 book.

2015 CAP Photo book Example

2015 CAP Photo book Example

Making and distributing this book is a great public outreach opportunity, allowing CAP to easily describe our field word, laboratory analysis, and outreach over the past years. My job today is to summarize these large projects into short, simple page length (or less!) descriptions.

Some of the major projects to be included in this years book are:

2016 Survey

During the summer of 2016 university landscape services rejuvenated one of the major entrances to campus.  Historically several important buildings (Y.M.C.A., hospital, weather bureau, and Station Terrace) occupied this area, so CAP conducted several sweeps of shovel test pits.  Testing revealed that most of the northern section of the entrance was highly disturbed, but the southern most portion of the median revealed the foundation of Station Terrace.

CAP field crew documenting STP 3B-14, part of the foundation wall of Station Terrace

CAP field crew documenting STP 3B-14, part of the foundation wall of Station Terrace

 

 

 

That summer the field crew also excavated at two additional locations, an old greenhouse and a botanical laboratory that burned down in 1879.

Beal's Laboratory foundation wall - burn layer visible in unit wall.

Beal’s Laboratory foundation wall – burn layer visible in unit wall.

Field crew members Becca Albert and Jack Biggs show off a pipe fragment from the Old Horticulture greenhouse

Becca Albert and Jack Biggs show off a pipe fragment from the greenhouse.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Food Reconstruction Project

Over the past year several CAP graduate fellows worked to recreate an 1860s meal on campus based on archaeological, archival, and historic cookbook research.  Although only photos will be used, check out this short video to learn more:

2017 Field School

From May 30th – June 30th MSU Anthropology undergraduate students returned to the site of Station Terrace (first located during the summer of 2016) to examine more of the building.  It was a small group this year, but we were able to excavate six units, and reveal more of the building’s interior and exterior.

CAP field school students Josh Eads and Kaleigh Perry excavate underneath ceramic pipes running along the stone foundation.

CAP field school students Josh Eads and Kaleigh Perry excavate underneath ceramic pipes running along the stone foundation.

Unit A north wall stratigraphy. The 2016 test pit is visible on the left side, with undisturbed layers including a feature visible on the right.

Unit A north wall stratigraphy. The 2016 test pit is visible on the left side, with undisturbed layers including a feature visible on the right.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The one thing I really wish I could include in the book, but can’t is this video of Dr. Goldstein demonstrating how to pop dirt directly into the screen:

These are just a few of the many projects campus archaeology has completed over the last two years.  If you’re interested in learning more, or keeping up with upcoming research and projects head on over to the Campus Archaeology website, or following us on instagram or twitter (@capmsu).

 

 

Reflections of a New Lecturer on the Day of Archaeology 2013

Collaborative video about my Heritage Practice module and BA Heritage Studies students at York

Collaborative video about our Heritage Practice module and BA Heritage Studies students at York

I’ve participated in the Day of Archaeology since its initiation two years ago, when my post (also see my 2012 post here) coincided very closely with my appointment at the University of York (UK). I have often struggled to summarise my day-to-day professional activities because, as I’ve discussed before, they are diverse and not evidently recognisable as the stereotype of ‘archaeology’. I adore my work because of such diversity—it is always different, it is of-the-moment, it is linked to so many exciting people (curators, designers, IT experts, archaeologists and heritage officers, media specialists, journalists, etc.), it is incredibly public, and hence it comes with a deep feeling of being engaged in something that truly impacts upon other individuals. Our great Cultural Heritage Management and Digital Heritage students have themselves been very successful in progressing to jobs with a comparable degree of variety and influence.

But the struggle to encapsulate my work has only intensified as my career has developed, owing to the fact that academia pulls you into so many administrative roles that push far beyond one’s expert interests. As a result, my days often entail (among other things) hours of email-writing and phone calls, organising courses and modules and reading lists and guest speakers, coordinating rooms and equipment and related specialist infrastructure, negotiating opportunities and insurance and accommodations and tools for the teams that I supervise, and reading drafts of others’ research.

It has been brokering this explosion in duties that I have found an especially difficult aspect of academic life, because it tends to pull you away from the very thing that is most inspiring to you—and, indeed, the thing that you are actually recognised in the wider world for: your own research. Some aspects of the job help to reinforce or elaborate your research, including preparing for teaching, in that they demand that you scour the literature and critically interrogate the emerging scholarship. But other aspects seem a million miles away from study and discovery and analysis and the other energising components of the research process.

These points have been on my mind lately as I take advantage of the couple of months of the year outside of the term-time calendar when I have more freedom to invest in my own research endeavours. I leave for Çatalhöyük next week with my great team from York, Southampton and Ege University in Turkey; our Gender & Digital Culture project is really starting to blossom (we were featured on Wednesday on the London School of Economics’ Impact blog!); I have a couple of articles and chapters now in press, and two grant applications out for review; and I’m coordinating some new projects/events for the upcoming year. But much of this work has only come together with substantial support from others: colleagues, research assistants, friends, etc.

My greatest learning experience of 2012-2013, then, has surely been in navigating this collaborative form of practice, because it has necessitated a complete shift in my intellectual mindset. As a student, I was trained to work independently—a not uncommon predicament for humanists. I would do my own study, analyse my own data, and write up my own work. However, as I’ve developed as a scholar, it’s become clear that not only is such an approach actually impossible for me now, but it was also a questionable way to have been educated in the first place. It’s questionable both because professional life demands that one be adept at collaboration, and because the best ideas and scholarship come about through learning with and from others who see the world in different ways.

The whole nature of how I intellectualise has had to change in order to accommodate this collaborative shift—and it has been a real and profound challenge for me. I’m having to teach myself how to relinquish control to others. I’m having to recognise that I can no longer do everything on my own and that I have to trust others to carry projects forward in my absence and help me. I’m having to learn to be comfortable with the fact that sometimes my role is now purely one of project manager, but that even here I can make a difference. Such a change in perspective has also meaningfully impacted on how I teach others, because I am concerned to ensure that my students don’t get educated in a vacuum, expecting that scholarly life will or should be an isolated activity. From my experience, nothing is more misconceived than the trope of the academic as a solitary figure. You are constantly surrounded by people—whether physically or metaphorically—who need things from you and vice versa. It’s a disservice to perpetuate the notion that independent, single-authored research is the paragon of scholarship, not least because even when such research is published, it always comes about through engagement with others. It’s also a disservice to budding academics to insinuate to them that such a model of practice is even plausible, because what results is real disconcertion when everyday reality—the multitasking and administrative load, etc.—proves it impossible and your whole epistemological outlook on research then is forced to change.

On this Day of Archaeology, when I’m preparing to take my team out for fieldwork next week, and working with my colleagues on multiple other projects, I’m very reflective about its collaborative essence. Collaboration is what sums up my activities today, and it’s what now characterises me as a scholar. And, honestly, I can’t imagine good research coming about in any other fashion.

Dr Sara Perry, Director of Studies, Digital Heritage, University of York