Historic preservation

Digging and Discovering … on Campus

Here at Michigan State, we have finished the field school, completed most construction-related projects, and are cleaning artifacts, organizing things and preparing for the new school year. I (Lynne Goldstein) am personally doing conference calls and trying to catch up on a variety of things that are due.

Doing archaeology on campus is a great way to train students, engage the public, and make people realize that archaeology is literally under their feet. It is our hope that we not only preserve and protect the campus heritage, but also that we make students, faculty, staff, and the general public aware of archaeology and why it is important.

To that end, the field school was in a great location this year – along the river and right behind the Administration Building. The location was not only lovely and prime territory for duck and goose watching, but it is also a high traffic area, with lots of people – including administrators – walking by daily. Here is a shot I took from the Provost’s office: IMG_1788

And here is our end-of-dig crew shot: IMG_2092

Archaeological work outside the field may sound dull, but it really is not always the case, as I noted yesterday on Facebook:
“Sometimes meetings are very enjoyable. Just returned from a meeting about new campus historical markers, focusing on the “Sleepy Hollow” area. MSU wants to include info on the prehistoric site we found at the edge of the hollow, as well as info the MSU Campus Archaeology Program has on historic sites and events in the area.
After the meeting, we went and inspected a couple of sites, then I visited the Beal Botanical Garden because all of the Eastern Agricultural Complex domesticates were blooming – goosefoot (Chenopodium berlandieri), sunflower (Helianthus annuus), marshelder (Iva annua), and squash (Cucurbita pepo).”

The Lansing State Journal ran an article this week on archaeology in Michigan, and we are very pleased that we are featured, along with Fort Michilimackinac and others.

The field school excavated a really interesting historic site that was apparently a single dump episode – in 1924, the head of grounds for the campus (also a Professor of Horticulture) remodeled and modernized his house and used the construction debris as fill for a low spot along the river, not far from the house. Everything we found dates from 1890s-1925. Field school students blogged about the work and what they found, and you can find those posts here.

Our regular CAP posts continue, and this link tells you about the outhouse we found which is probably linked to Saints Rest, the very first dormitory on campus. We are very excited about this find because we have been searching for an outhouse associated with the dorm for a long time. Archaeologists like outhouses (well, old ones that don’t smell anymore) because no one goes after anything they dropped into one, and people also often used them as a dump for debris.

We do have some sidewalk work to do on campus, and this often yields really interesting things. The University replaces sidewalks with some regularity (they are now trying to install “green” sidewalks everywhere), and there is often undisturbed stuff beneath the old sidewalks.

A Day in Transportation Archaeology

A shot of where I spent my day

This year my Day of Archaeology is quite different from last year (http://www.dayofarchaeology.com/digging-with-kids-historic-archaeology-education-and-fun/).  I have recently begun a new career as a Transportation Planner in the Office of Environmental Review at the Connecticut Department of Transportation (CT DOT).  My education and background in archaeology are what allow me to do preliminary project reviews for impacts to historic and cultural resources.  At the CT DOT, projects can vary from line painting on a road, to bridge replacement, to major infrastructure construction.  What I do day-to-day changes and it certainly keeps the job interesting.  Outside of work I also have other commitments of an archaeological nature.  I am on the Board of Directors for the Friends of the Office of State Archaeology (FOSA), and I also volunteer my time running public archaeological excavations for local museums.  A lot of my “free” time is used organizing events.

Here is a general schedule of what my day looked like today:

6:15-6:45AM: While eating breakfast I spent time searching for organization contact information to solicit participants for FOSA’s Public Archaeology Fair, which will be held Oct. 27th 2012 in Wethersfield, CT.

7:00-7:30AM: While commuting to work I listened to The Archaeology Channel’s podcast (http://www.archaeologychannel.org/AudioNews.asp).

7:30-9:00AM: At the office I organized site maps and photos and filled out archaeology site forms to be submitted to the CT State Historic Preservation Office (CT SHPO) and CT State Archaeologist in order to get site numbers for two historic bridge and mill sites (in Plymouth and Woodbury) that were identified while out on a bridge survey last month.  This site information will eventually be added to the database of CT archaeological sites maintained by the CT SHPO and CT State Archaeologist.  This information is used by state officials for planning purposes and by CRM firms for research purposes.

9:00-11:00AM: I organized project information, maps, and recommendations to submit to the CT SHPO for review under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and the Connecticut Environmental Policy Act (CEPA).

11:00AM-4:00PM: I reviewed 4 new projects for impacts to socio-economic resources, parks, refuges, scenic roads and bikeways.  (My job actually entails investigating impacts beyond cultural resources under NEPA & CEPA.)  These projects included bridge replacements and roadway and utility improvements.

5:00-6:00PM: Sent e-mails asking (begging & pleading) local archaeology and historical groups to participate in FOSA’s Public Archaeology Fair, sent out a rough draft of an advertising blurb for the event, and sent my FOSA Archaeology Awareness Month Committee an update.

That just about sums up my day.  Suffice it to say, much of my day revolves around archaeology in some way, even though I spend less and less time in the dirt.


A day in the life of a HERO (Historic Environment Records Officer).

The day is nearly over, but it’s better late than never!

I got into the office about 9.30 this morning, made myself a cup of coffee as my computer took it’s usual ten minutes to turn on, and starting putting together a list of Industrial Heritage sites for each District within the County.  I sent these to a colleague who is organising a conference on Industrial Heritage, and I need him to select which sites he would like me to create a map for in the conference booklet. Having been on holiday last week, I still had to catch up with emails and respond to people.

I spent most of the morning working on a project to develop Local Lists, which involves working with District Councils and Local Groups, and is funded by English Heritage. One of the local history societies I am working with needed some information on archaeological sites in their local area. Most local lists focus only on historic buildings, but one of the aims of my project is to encourage people to appreciate the historic environment in their local area as a whole, this includes archaeological sites, monuments and even landscapes. Local Lists are exciting, because they allow local communities to decide what parts of their local heritage are important to them. While the list doesn’t provide any statutory protection, it will offer these sites some protection via planning, and what I think is most important, it will promote local heritage. Using the HER database and GIS mapping, I was able to recommend a crop mark complex of ring-ditches, which are likely  to date to the Bronze Age, based on excavation results of a nearby field. The excavation had also produced a number of late Iron Age and Roman finds. It’s always interesting to look at the modern Ordnance Survey maps and compare them to the 1st Edition maps, and you can easily get distracted from what you were mean to be doing!

At twelve o’clock, as per usual, the IT network crashed while some mysterious back-up took place and my map project crashed. I made another cup of coffee and chatted to some colleagues about how the impeding government cuts and impact of Big Society could potentially mean that we a. may loose no desks and b. may loose our library in order to save space. I decide that I can live with both these things, if the alternative means loosing my job. Before lunch I start reading the Draft National Planning Policy Framework, which outlines some of the most major reforms to the Planning system in a generation. It will take me a while to read it properly and form my thoughts to respond to the consultation.

After lunch, I begin to put together a scheme of work for a post-grad who will be volunteering with me next week. I then spend the rest of the afternoon writing up case studies carried out for the Local List project to date, as English Heritage need to include them in the guidance document on local lists; I probably can’t say any more about it at this stage.

All-in-all, today has been relatively calm and not terribly exciting, but sometimes that’s what you want on a Friday. Next week will no doubt be the total opposite, as I will be furiously trying to complete a my thematic survey of windmills, which covered the entire county. Unfortunately, all the fun work of surveying is over, and I will have to start making some recommendations for how to best manage and conserve the windmills and sites of windmills. I’m finishing the day with yet another cup of coffee, and writing a long ‘to-do’ list for things I need to achieve on Monday.