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Archive for July, 2009

Last week I went over to the MSU Archives with Terry to do a little research.  I’ve never been to the archives before, so it ended up being a really good way to get my feet wet.  Let me first say this about myself, I love old maps and pictures.  When the opportunity presents itself, I will pour over them for hours, even if I’m not looking for anything in particular.  But this time, lucky me, I’ve got a goal in mind.  

When we got to the archives, there was a pile of folders and maps waiting for us on the table.  Hats off to Whitney Miller for all of her help.  She really knows the archives well, and as we looked over the maps and photos it became clear that she knows MSU just as well.  The files that she pulled out for me to look at contained mostly aerial photographs from the 1940’s and 50’s.  My purpose at the archives was to find any maps or pictures that might shed light on the Brody Hall bottle dump.  This is a small step towards my big research project that is due in the spring.    

I found some interesting things.  From what I can tell so far, the land that Brody Hall sits on has seen fairly minimal use.  One map that is dated 1900 shows a small portion of what is now Brody complex divided into housing lots.  Exactly how many of these lots were actually used I have no idea.  In addition, the divided block of land is slightly north of the dump site.  Perhaps some of the debris is from these homes? Perhaps not.  

A 1919 campus map shows the location of two buildings just south of the divided lots mentioned above.  One of these buildings is labeled, “Experiment Station Barn.”  From this point we jump forward to the 1940’s when part of the area housed a university barn and horse track.  The horse track and barn appear to have been dismantled by the 1950’s, although evidence of the horse track appears in later pictures.  When the Kellogg Center was built in 1951, the area directly across Harrison Road became parking.  Some of the older photographs show variations in terrain, low spots and marshy swales.  These appear to have been filled in by the time the area was used for parking, possibly filled with bottles and then covered up?  We’ll see.  There are a few homes that pop in and out of the pictures, and closer to the river was the site of the Red Cedar Administration Building.  This building was gone by 1956.  

Now that I’ve been to the archives, I feel as though I have more questions than answers.  Hopefully the archives have more to offer as my research progresses.  If you are interested in learning more about what the MSU archives has to offer, check out the website.

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Last week marked the annual summer session of Grandparents University.  Every summer, MSU hosts alumni and their grandchildren for a few days of special classes and presentations all around the campus.  These lucky grandchildren get to stay in Holmes Hall, eat in the cafeteria, and also choose from a list of interesting classes to attend each day.  Professors and organizations all accross campus provide their time, knowledge, and skills to make Grandparents University special.  Students even receive bags of special little gifts and snacks(pretty good marketing if you ask me).  

CAP was one of the groups to participate in this event, and it ended up being a lot of fun.  On Tuesday, we set up a pit near the MSU museum so that we could demonstrate archaeological techniques in a hands on way.  We were near the site of the 2005 field school at Saints’ Rest, the first dormitory on campus.  It was completed in 1856 and burned to the ground over winter break of 1876.  There has been extensive excavation on the actual building site, but I was extremely pleased to learn that we would be digging in there area that may be the dorm trash pit.  I’ve never had the chance to dig a privy or midden of any kind, so I was pumped.  

Our first morning at the site started out a little slow.  It turns out that it is difficult to find a backfilled pit when the markers are gone.  Lawnmowers!!!  I got to see first-hand how troubling survey equipment can be on a rainy day, so troubling in fact that I never actually got a chance to try it out with Terry.  Sometimes technology just works for itself and no one else.  We did eventually find what we were looking for, but it had to be done the old fashion way.  We knew roughly where to dig, and once we pulled some sod back, a faint line appeared in the soil.  This line marked the outside edge of CAP’s previous November inquiry into the trash pit.

In no time at all, we were pulling out artifacts left and right.  Each bucket of soft mottled sand that was taken to be sifted seemed to contain more and more fragments of broken glass and cut nails.  There were numerous butchered cow bones and even the remains of a pig jaw.  For anyone looking for dinosaur bones, this is as close as I can take you.  As the day progressed, more and more students of Grandparents University stopped by to see what was going on.  It was a lot of fun to be out there digging and showing off our newly unearthed artifacts.  The kids were very interested, but even more interested were the grandparents.  There were tons of great questions overall, and I really enjoyed the experience of digging with so many curious people around.

Check out the Saints’ Rest online exhibit!!!

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