MSU Department of Anthropology hosts the 2021 Midwest Archaeology Conference

October 18, 2021 - Katie Nicpon

Dr. O'GormanThe Michigan State University Department of Anthropology hosted the joint annual meeting of the Midwest Archaeological Conference and the Midwest Historical Archaeology Conference October 7–9, 2021, on MSU’s campus. Jodie O’Gorman, MSU associate professor and archaeologist, led the team responsible for organizing the conference. 

“Our membership gets together every year to share the research we’ve been doing. It's an important opportunity for us to see colleagues, meet new and prospective students, and debate and discuss issues that are important to all of us,” O’Gorman said. 

The Midwest Archaeological Conference is the regional association for archaeologists and students working in the Mid-continent. It has been held annually for the last 64 years, except last year due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. This year, the Department of Anthropology brought over 150 people and 21 student volunteers together again with special precautions to allow for social distancing.

“MSU has always been one of the most influential institutions in Midwest and Great Lakes archaeology,” O’Gorman said. “Many of our archaeology alumni still live and work in the Midwest and are members of MAC. They hold some of the most influential archaeology positions in national, state, and private organizations. We celebrate the opportunity to reconnect with them. We also see it as an opportunity to let others see how strong our program is.” 

The meeting this year was a joint meeting with the Midwest Historical Archaeology Conference because O’Gorman and her colleagues decided to co-host this meeting to stress the importance of both kinds of archaeology at MSU. The co-organizers were Drs. Jessica Yann and Stacey Camp, Director of MSU’s Campus Archaeology Program. 

“I hope people enjoyed reconnecting with colleagues. Some of the papers reflect on archaeology in the time of COVID, and I think it’s important for us to share that and to support each other,” O’Gorman said. “I think people also enjoyed just getting back to a bit of normalcy in terms of hearing research papers.”

Attendees attended sessions, workshops and a Campus Archaeology tour of MSU.

“One unique event was the MAC-sponsored symposium I co-organized with several former and current students,” O’Gorman said. “We assembled 13 papers on ‘Midcontinental Cuisine: Recent Archaeological Explorations of Food and Cooking in the Heartland,’ about cuisine from ancient times to MSU’s early history. We also featured MSU historical cuisine at the following reception in collaboration with MSU chefs.” 

Other events during the conference were a workshop on building an inclusive culture in the field, and two workshops (one for students and one for practicing archaeologists) on 3D Digitization, Preservation, and Access in Archaeology and Heritage. The 3D workshops were presented by Dr. Ethan Watrall in the college’s Lab for the Education and Advancement in Digital Research (LEADR), an interdisciplinary venture of Anthropology, History, and Matrix. 

“The past cultures we study lived from the edge of the Plains into the forests of the Northeast, around the Great Lakes as well as smaller inland lakes, and along major and minor river valleys,” O’Gorman said. “Indigenous groups have been here since at least 15,000 years ago and their cultural heritage is especially rich and varied.”

Hosting the conference had special meaning to O’Gorman.

“I first became interested in MSU when I attended a MAC meeting here 22 years ago,” O’Gorman said. “That meeting led to my application for the position I hold now. As I think about retirement, I hope the younger generation of Midwest archaeologists that attended this year saw what an exciting program we have.” 

To learn more about the Midwest Archaeology Conference, visit .