This post originally appeared on April 8, 2014 on SupportForStudents.msu.edu as part of a series of posts on the University Undergraduate Research and Arts Forum. The project highlighted features Linton Hall, the current location of the Graduate School, as well as the Campus Archaeology Program, which has conducted test digs surrounding the Chittenden Hall construction site.
As a freshman, Josh Schnell saw a flyer recruiting interns to work with the MSU Campus Archaeology Program. He took a shot and applied for the program. He was chosen to work for the group, completing data entry in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software used to track results from test digs on campus. The only hitch? Josh had never used GIS before. Katy Meyers, a doctoral student in anthropology who was serving as campus archaeologist at the time, taught Josh how to use the software so he complete his work. Josh is now a junior studying anthropology, and he still works with the campus archaeology program. He is the recipient of the Jay Samuel Hartt Scholarship, awarded to outstanding students in the areas of arts, letters and humanities.
Part of Josh’s work involves plotting the locations of the archaeological test digs on campus. These tests involve digging holes in a grid pattern to determine if artifacts are present in the ground. Josh takes the location of the digs and plots it using geographic coordinates. He also codes whether or not artifacts are found at each location. Josh became interested in learning more from the data. He decided to plot the locations and the presence of artifacts on both a modern campus map and a map from 1899. From there he hoped he would be able to see if patterns could be gleaned from the locations of found artifacts.
Linton Hall was the key to the process. Linton Hall is now the oldest surviving building on campus. It was the one existing building that also appears on a campus map dated 1899 Josh obtained from the Michigan State University Archives and Historical Collections. Using this building as a landmark, Josh was able to plot the test dig locations, not just on campus as we know it today, but on campus as it would have appeared at the turn of the 20th century.
Josh’s GIS work shows a distinct concentration of artifacts found around West Circle Drive and in the spaces surrounding the present location of Beaumont Tower. These findings support theories about the lifestyles of students in the late 1800s and early 1900s. At that time, students at the school were required to supply manual labor. Students would frequently take their lunch into the greenspace to eat while on break. Artifacts found in this area include glass bottles and ceramic dishes. Artifacts were noticeably sparse in areas further from the residence halls of the past. The area west of the present-day MSU Student Union and Cowles House were occupied by an athletic track and armory in 1899. These locations were less likely to encourage students to bring their dishes with them.
Linton Hall currently houses the Graduate School, the College of Arts and Letters, and the University Scholarships and Fellowships Advancement Office.
Below is the abstract from Josh’s poster presentation:
The heart of Michigan State University’s campus is the space located within West Circle Drive. Historically, the first and second dormitory halls, Saints Rest and Williams Hall, stood here as well as College Hall, MSU’s first laboratory, classroom, and administrative building. Today, the MSU Museum, Beaumont Tower, the President’s House, and the now oldest building on campus, Linton Hall, remain. In 1870, the President of MSU designated the area as Sacred Space and declared that it should never be built on. Due to the area’s importance throughout MSU’s history, this area is of special interest to the Campus Archaeology Program. Using Geographic Information Systems (GIS), a mix of hardware, software, and mapping, we can reveal spatial and temporal patterns of deposits in the archaeological record. I have chosen to use archaeological data and finds from this area of campus to conduct a hotspot analysis and exploratory data analysis using GIS. A hotspot analysis will reveal geographic areas where we see a large number of artifacts compared to surrounding areas and I’ll overlay the findings with a historic map of campus in order to reveal spatial relations between historic buildings and what we find today in the archaeological record. Exploratory data analysis will reveal interesting aspects about this data set such as the density of artifacts recovered by area, the geographic “center” (median) of this data set, and other statistical measures.