Michigan State University masthead

MSU Anthropology Division

Research and Scholarship

Through the activities of its Curatorial Staff, Adjunct Faculty, Research Associates, and students engaged in collections based research the Division of Anthropology maintains a high profile both within Michigan and the Great Lakes, as well as at a national and international level. Division of Anthropology curators undertake regular fieldwork across Michigan and the Great Lakes, with funding from competitive granting agencies and contracts from public and private agencies. Ongoing current research projects in southwestern Michigan, on the MSU campus, and sustained work in the Saginaw River Valley of Michigan, and at the Marquette Mission Site in St. Ignace augment more than four decades of research dedicated to understanding the indigenous and Euro-American presence in the Great Lakes region since the retreat of the last glaciers. Division curators and adjuncts routinely collaborate with researchers in other disciplines from the social, natural, and physical sciences and the humanities, engage in forensic research, and are involved in the formulation of legislation and public policy. Numerous publications including books, research monographs, book chapters and journal articles have resulted from this work, and many more are in progress.

Archaeological and Ethnographic Teaching Collections

The Division of Anthropology maintains extensive archaeological and ethnographic teaching collections at the Consortium for Archaeological Research and in the collections facility at Central Services Building. These collections are regularly utilized by faculty across the MSU campus as a vehicle through which to familiarize students with subject matter through direct, hands on, contact with cultural objects of varying age from North America and around the world. The core of the archaeological teaching collection derives from the Boudeman Collection, a large group of objects donated to the MSU Museum by the Boudeman Estate in the 1950s. The Boudeman Collection has been supplemented by both other donations as well as the purchase of replica artifacts for classroom use.

Archeological Research Collections

The extensive archaeological research collections of the MSU Museum are curated by the Division of Anthropology and housed at the Consortium for Archaeological Research and at the Central Services Building. These collections are regularly employed for research by faculty and visiting scholars, as well as by graduate students involved in thesis and dissertation research. Several regions of Michigan are well represented in the MSU Museum collections by both survey and intensive excavation over the past forty five years of work by Museum curators, supplemented by the judicious acceptance of private collections. Regional collections strengths include northwestern lower Michigan, and the Pere Marquette, upper Grand River, and Saginaw River basins. There are significant excavated site collections from northern lower Michigan, the Straits of Mackinac, the MSU campus, and the Saginaw Valley. The Saginaw Valley collections have been greatly enhanced by the addition of the donated Butterfield/Schmidt Collection, and the Great Lakes Gas Transmission Pipeline Project collections.

Enhanced curation of the archaeological collections has been an ongoing goal of the Division of Anthropology. Primary records have been reorganized, archivally stored, and housed in fireproof cabinets. Collection-specific curation has been funded by organizations such as the Strosacker Foundation and the Great Lakes Gas Transmission Pipeline Company. Most recently the division received a major Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) grant to completely rehouse the archaeological collections. Curator O’Gorman has also completed the incorporation of a decade of research materials from the Marquette Mission site in St. Ignace into a GIS database for comprehensive synthetic analysis and curation.

Outreach, Engagement, and Public Programming

Through the Consortium for Archaeological Research the Division of Anthropology participates in a broad range of activities designed to foster professional collaboration, support avocational interests, and enhance public education. Staff, students, and adjuncts in the Division of Anthropology regularly provide presentations to school groups and public audiences, including the annual Archaeology Day celebration hosted by the Office of the State Archaeologist at the Michigan Historical Museum in Lansing. The CAR facilities at McDonel Hall are utilized by the Board of Directors of the state amateur archaeological organization, the Michigan Archaeological Society (MAS), as well as for the annual meeting of the state professional society, the Conference on Michigan Archaeology (COMA). Division personnel are central figures in both organizations, and are often called on to provide expert advice to government and private enterprise. Further, curatorial staff and adjuncts provide important direction for public exhibitions about archaeology, most recently at the Charlevoix Historical Society Museum and at the MSU Library, making important new finds accessible to the larger public. Electronically accessible information on research into early French and Native American interaction in the Straits of Mackinac region is available to the public through the Marquette Mission site web pages. A website for the Yorkshire Dales Hunter Gatherer Research Project has been established through the University of Bradford, UK. Students recently completed an extensive online exhibit presenting the MSU early campus community viewed through archaeology of the institution’s first dormitory known as Saints’ Rest.

Programmatic Collaborations

Faculty, staff, and students in the Division of Anthropology are affiliated with a variety of programs both on, and off, the Michigan State University campus, as well as at other educational institutions. Curators and adjuncts regularly participate in the American Indian Studies Program (AISP), the Quaternary Landscapes Research Group (QLRG), the Canadian Studies Centre (CSC), the Center for European and Russian Studies (CERS), and other programs across the MSU campus. Current staff research engages inter-institutional collaborations with the New York State Museum, the University of Michigan Museum of Anthropology, the Glenn Black Laboratory of Archaeology at Indiana University, and the Department of Archaeological Sciences at the University of Bradford.