Looking Back on a Historic Campus


This exhibit takes the history of Michigan State University and looks at its history through an archaeological viewpoint. The exhibit reviews four unique stages of MSU history, including both the archaeological and historical information.


Katy Meyers


Beginnings 1855-1870

This first period of time represents the first steps of the Agricultural College of the State of Michigan, before it received Land Grant funding and had very little in the way of state support. Despite the hardship and struggles of this first inaugural period, there was optimism for what education could do for Michigan and there was hope for the future of the college. During this period the first buildings were erected, campus maintenance and care was done by the students, and the college fought through a lack of financial support and potential closures.

Foundation 1870-1900

The second period of the campus is representative of economic change and increasingly structured institution. The campus finally received financial support from the Morrill Land Grant, which helped them to construct new buildings for living and teaching space. The courses expanded, the administration became more organized, and the first women and international students began taking classes. The college begins to assert its identity in this period by wearing green and holding their first official football season.

Expansion 1900-1925

The third period of campus is one of dramatic expansion, modification of the landscape and a change in name to the Michigan Agricultural College. With enrollment and programming doubling, the campus begins to spread south of the river. Larger buildings are constructed to replace small ones, and older buildings are razed or collapse. Moving south of the river leads to a need to control the flooding river, and the land is highly modified in order to gain control. The introduction of automobiles and a growing community outside of the college aids in its rapid expansion.

Legacy 1925-1955

With the rapid expansion of the previous decades and the diversity of curriculum leads to a change in name from the Michigan Agricultural College to Michigan State College. With the introduction of WPA money and the GI bill, the campus continued to grow and diversify exponentially. This period led to the transformation of the college into a major research university. The college began to assert the identity we know today; becoming part of the Big Ten, attending its first national conferences in football and basketball, introducing Sparty, and changing the paper to the State News.