American Archives Month 2013

1 10 2013


American Archives Month is celebrated every October to promote the value of archives and archivists.  The Michigan State University Archives & Historical Collections (UAHC) is responsible for collecting and preserving the historical records of the nation’s pioneer land-grant university.  In essence, the university archives is the memory of MSU.  Our collections contain documents, photographs, scrapbooks, diaries, and audio and visual recordings on a variety of topics, including athletics, student life, and Michigan History.  UAHC is a valuable resource for the MSU community, historians, publishers and producers, K-12 students, teachers, genealogists, and the general public.

To celebrate American Archives Month, the MSU Archives & Historical Collections is holding a trivia contest that focuses on the history of athletics at MSU. The contest is open to MSU faculty, staff and students, MSU alumni, and the greater Lansing community. This contest will end on Thursday, October 31. Three winners will be chosen at random from among the correct entries and will be notified the following week.  The contest is available online at

Additionally, we will be showcasing our collections during two events offered through Alumni LENS (formerly Evening College).  First is a two-night presentation by Assistant Director Portia Vescio titled “Toil and Trouble at MSU.”  On October 16 and 23, Portia will tell stories of rascals and riots, horrific pranks and libelous publications—just a few of the colorful items from MSU’s historical and (sometimes) troubling times. You will be able to view some of the original materials from the University Archives’ collections that document these times.  For more information, please visit

The second offering is a tour of the MSU Archives hosted by Collections & Outreach Archivist Megan Badgley Malone.  The tour includes the Archives’ closed stacks, which are usually off-limits to the public.  You will have the opportunity to view archival gems such as the earliest campus maps and photographs, unique student publications, Rose Bowl programs, diaries and letters of MSU presidents and the letter that Charles Darwin wrote to William Beal. You will also see our Historical Collections, materials not directly related to MSU, but of great historical significance. These materials include Civil War diaries and letters, ledgers from the Battle Creek Sanitarium and photos from the REO Motor Car Company.  For more information, please visit

More than just a graduation photo backdrop: The eclectic history of Demonstration Hall

2 06 2011

Every May thousands of new MSU graduates congregate near Circle Drive to take part in what for many is their final MSU tradition – having a photo taken, in full graduation regalia, with MSU’s famous Spartan Statue.  Unbeknown to many of the new alumni the backdrop to their photograph is one of the most storied and interesting buildings on MSU’s campus.

Demonstration Hall, or Dem Hall as it is affectionately known, was planned by the then Michigan Agricultural College board in 1925 to replace the Campus Armory.  Erected in 1928, it was designed to serve as a building “suitable to be used for the demonstration of agricultural stock and implements, for college athletics and the housing of the military department of the college”.  At a cost of $355,000 the Romanesque Revival style building has been one of the most versatile on MSU’s campus and with its impressive arches and vine covered exterior it is still one of the most iconic to stand on the banks of the red cedar.

In its early days Dem Hall served many varied purposes for M.S.C. including housing commencement – as seen in this photograph in 1931 – as well as being an arena for agriculture students to show their cows as these students are doing in Farmers’ Week in 1933.

Dem Hall was always a popular sport arena with basketball, soccer, volleyball, and many other sports taken place inside its hallowed walls.  From 1949 Dem Hall was home to MSU Men’s Hockey.  However, this did not prevent MSU from melting the ice in 1951 and using the building as a dormitory to house 650 beds for the Michigan Future Farmers of America and the Michigan Future Homemakers of America; not, it should be pointed out, at the same time….Dem Hall proved to be a happy stomping ground for MSU hockey throughout the ensuing decades and even hosted a game against Gordie Howe’s Detroit Red Wings in 1959 and housed the Spartan team that won its first NCAA Hockey National Title in 1966.

However, Dem Hall was slowly beginning to lose its appeal to MSU’s hockey faithful.  Called (rather unfairly) an “eyesore” by the State News in 1971 and described at the same time by then MSU Head Coach Amo Bessone as “the only hockey rink that can guarantee everyone a bad seat” the old building’s days as a major sport arena at MSU were numbered.    MSU hockey eventually moved to the purpose-built Munn

Ice Arena in 1974 but Dem Hall’s iconic high ceilings and low lighting  still plays host to numerous sporting events such as Intramural indoor soccer and Intramural floor hockey.  The arena has also recently become home to the Mitten Mavens, a Lansing/East Lansing flat-track roller Derby team who regularly attract hundreds of spectators to their bouts at the storied venue.  Dem Hall has also been used at various times as a gallery for local artists to showcase their goods, as a venue for plays and concerts, and as the location of MSU’s blood-drive.

In recent years Dem Hall’s exterior has been renovated with the north facing windows replaced to give a more aesthetic image for the thousands of MSU grads who have it as a backdrop to their Spartan Statue graduation photos and 23 Sienna Glen Maple trees being planted to give the building a more historic feel.  Inside the building the smaller hall has been renovated and now serves as a practice venue for the Spartan Marching Band; the acoustics have even been improved so as to replicate the game day sound for the band.  The building still houses MSU’s ROTC, although the shooting range has gone, and the budding cadets no longer have to fight for space with cows, sheep, and other livestock!

Next time you are near Spartan Stadium or Munn Ice Arena and you pass by a rather dilapidated old-style building or you see a graduate having their photo taken on the Spartan statue with an intimidating but impressive looking arena in the background; stop and take a closer look.  As you do, remember the graduation ceremonies, agricultural shows, ROTC training, Red Wings hockey games, NCAA championships, and many other events that have taken place in one of the most historic venues on MSU’s campus.

Upcoming Presentation: Title IX

16 04 2009

Next week archivist Portia Vescio and Javier Pescador of the MSU History Department will present a lecture on Title IX and MSU during the Title IX era.  Named “The Floor was Warped:  Women Athletes and MSU Athletes in the Title IX Era,” the presentation explores some advancements made by women athletes in the early 1970s, when Title IX passed.  In addition, the presentation examines a Title IX law suit filed by the women’s basketball team in 1978 against Michigan State University.  The women’s team claimed they were discriminated against in comparison to the male athletes. 

The presentation will be at 8:30am on Thursday, April 23, 2009, in 117 Berkey Hall on the MSU campus.  The event is free and open to the public.

Women's basketball team with coach Karen Langeland

Women's basketball team with coach Karen Langeland

Archives Collaborates on Sports Website

9 02 2009

The MSU Archives is working with a history class to load images and documents relating to the history of athletics at MSU onto a website. The class is HST 324, History of Sport in America, and is taught by J. Javier Pescador. The website was developed by Pescador with the help of MATRIX. The students in Pescador’s class were originally presenting their final projects about MSU sports history just to the class. With the broad appeal of MSU athletics, Pescador realized that the work his students were doing could be used not only in his class, but also in other classes and by individuals wanting to know more about the history of athletics at MSU.

One of the many images on the sports history website

One of the many images on the sports history website

The HST 324 students do research in the archives, choosing a selection of images and documents that show the changes that have occurred in sports at MSU. Each team of students concentrates on one sport. The topics cover both men’s and women’s sports and go back to the earliest years at MSU, as well the more recent teams. In addition to the photographs and documents chosen by the students, some of their research papers are also available on the website.

You can view the Sports History website at http://www.sports.history.msu