Museum Staff

& Board of Trustees

Click on a staff member’s name below to learn more about them!

Chris Combs

Executive Director


Darlene Kascak

Educational Outreach Ambassador, Schaghticoke Tribal Nation (STN)

Darlene’s experience as an educator, tour guide, museum assistant and Traditional Native American Storyteller has taught her the importance of educating both young and old about the many misconceptions and stereotypes about her ancestors. Her style of teaching from a Native American’s point of view allows children and adults the opportunity to have a new understanding of Connecticut’s Indigenous Peoples lives both in the past and in the present.

For me, my position at the museum is not just a job. It is what I
am meant to do, my purpose in life, to preserve, protect and share the true stories of the Native American people in the past and present.

Paul Wegner

Assistant Executive Director – Curation & Collections

Paul Wegner has been working in the field of archaeology for over 17 years. In recent years he has transitioned from the cultural resource management field to the museum field, still working primarily with archaeological collections. Mr. Wegner holds a BA in Anthropology from Franklin Pierce College, and an MA in Experimental Archaeology from the University of Exeter.

As the Assistant Director at the Institute for American Indian Studies (IAIS), Mr. Wegner has curated several temporary and permanent exhibitions, created informational and marketing materials, lead archaeological excavations, and educated visitors through interactive tours. In addition, Mr. Wegner also serves as the volunteer and intern coordinator for the museum.

Mr. Wegner has spearheaded the reexamination of archaeological collections in the care of IAIS to increase public access to and understanding of these collections through digitization. His research interests are pre-colonial ceramics, particularly those from Southern New England, and representations of indigenous people in media, both historically and contemporary.

Mr. Wegner currently serves on the board of the Archaeological Society of Connecticut and is a Registered Professional Archaeologist. When not knee deep in ceramics, Paul likes to spend time with his family, watch and write about film, and visit museums.


Gabe Benjamin

Educational Programming Director

Gabriel Benjamin received his Bachelor’s of Science in Education, with a focus in History, as well as his Master’s of Arts in Public History from Central Connecticut State University. Through his participation in numerous research projects, including the Yale Indian Papers Project, the Farmington Slavery Research Project, and the Hartford Ancient Burial Ground Project, he has focused on the history of marginalized groups in Southern New England, as well as the legacy of marginalization within these communities.

At IAIS, Gabe collaborates with staff to develop and plan culturally sensitive events and programming for learners of all ages, including a multi-week summer camp that focuses on the lifeways and lessons of a culture with thousands of years of history in the region.

“The experiences that visitors, students and campers have at our museum create memories that can last a lifetime as they gain a deeper appreciation for Native American history. These programs also help people learn more about themselves as well as the world around them, and can create moments that break down the artificial barriers that seemingly divide us.”

Susan Scherf

Museum Educator and Assistant Camp Director

Susan Scherf is an expert in ecology, former bird bander on Nantucket, and a former wildlife rehabilitator at Frost Valley YMCA. Susan attributes her knowledge and passion for the natural world to her peers and hands on learning experiences. Often found with a field guide in her back pocket, Susan inspires others to create a connection to each other and their environment, and to understand the role it plays in their lives.

“Native American peoples were deeply connected to the natural world, you can not separate their culture from the environment. At IAIS, we make those connections. We help our patrons have a better understanding of the natural world and how applicable it is today, more than ever.”

Griffin Kalin

Head of Fabrication & Exhibit Production

Graduating from Hartford Art School in 2011, with a degree in illustration, Griffin has been involved at IAIS for over 12 years.  Despite his main focus on education, environment, design, and replication, Griffin’s life-long playfulness and curiosity with the world around him continues to build a rather eclectic set of skills, experiences, and perspectives.  Griffin can often be found outside and is always down for a good conversation.

Image of Irene
Irene Norman

Supervisor of Curriculum and Instruction

Influenced by both her North Carolina upbringing and Mohawk heritage, Irene brings a distinctive perspective to her work as an educator. During a decade-long break from college, she worked as a car mechanic in Asheville, NC, near the home of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. Later, she studied Political Science and American Indian and Indigenous Studies at UNC Chapel Hill. While at UNC, she worked at the university’s American Indian Center as a student policy ambassador and mentor for Native American high school students. Irene’s connection to North Carolina tribal communities and understanding of her own family history has inspired her to work for the educational and political advancement of Indigenous people.

Image of Domingo
Domingo Franciamore

Museum Educator & Museum Assistant

A graduate of Wilkes University with a double major in History and Secondary Education. Domingo is always willing to learn about the world around him and then turn around and teach others. As both a museum educator and museum assistant, you will find him all over the museum, from school groups to tours or completing one of the many projects on his to-do list.

Karen Larkin - IAIS' Curatorial Assistant
Karen Larkin

Collections and Curation Assistant

Karen graduated from the University of Connecticut, studying Anthropology & Human Rights. At IAIS, she develops and designs exhibit spaces for in-house and traveling exhibits.

Photo of Robin
Robin Rodrigue

Museum Educator

A Connecticut girl, Robin traveled to the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains for college, where she earned a B.A. Degree in Environmental Science from Warren Wilson College. She worked as a banker for 30 years, spending time as a corporate trainer, service and retail sales manager, and then shifted into the nonprofit sector. She has a graduate certificate from UCONN in Nonprofit Management, and a certificate in bookkeeping. A consummate nerd, looking to hang with the cool kids.

Image of Nicole
Nicole Middendorf

Museum Educator

Nicole is currently a student at Western Connecticut State University studying anthropology and sociology. Here at IAIS, she is an Educator and loves to shed light on Native histories that have often been overlooked. She plans on continuing to share her knowledge while learning more herself from reliable sources!

Image of Nicole
Ashley Reiske

Educator and Events Coordinator

Whether you see her in the pool or educating our patrons, Ashley has a passion for teaching and boundless energy. Ashley graduated from the College of St. Rose in Albany, NY in 2019 and holds a B.A. in History with a concentration in European Studies. She uses this knowledge to highlight post-contact interactions with the native peoples of New England. Furthermore, she is seeking a Masters in Museum Education from Southern New Hampshire University. 

Ashley has previously interned for the New England Carousel Museum and the Underground Railroad Museum in marketing and advertising. She honed her skills to promote fundraisers and events and has begun using these skills at the museum. Ashley has created community fundraisers, partnerships with for-profit and non-profit organizations, and helps organize the museum’s larger events. She is passionate about helping IAIS succeed and continue its legacy for future generations!

Board Of Trustees

Craig Nelson, Chair
Dr. Katherine Hermes, Vice Chair
Sarah Griswold, Secretary
Susan Payne, Treasurer
Richard Cowes
Paul Swigart
Marie Bennett
Deborah Cronin
Gary Tinney
Robert Palazzo
Susan Filan, Esq.