Research & Collections

Welcome to the exciting realm of Artifacts, Archaeology, and Anthropology!

The Research and Collections Department is the very core of the IAIS museum, which had its beginnings in local archaeological research and preservation. 

The Research and Collections Department manages the museum’s material culture collections, which include some 6,000 ethnographic (post-European contact) items and over 300,000 archaeological artifacts. These cultural remains represent hundreds of Native American societies throughout the western Hemisphere. They range in age from over 12,000 years to the 20th century.

The artifacts we discover and curate enhance IAIS’s wonderful exhibits and are the basis for our many presentations and publications on Native American histories and cultures. The Research and Collections Department collaborates with the Education Department to produce engaging public exhibits, workshops, and publications that inform the public of the diversity, complexity and sophistication of indigenous cultures.

Many of the artifacts grace the pages of my recent book, Connecticut’s Indigenous Peoples: What Archaeology, History and Oral Traditions teach us about their Communities and Cultures (Lavin 2013), helping to tell the story of our state’s deep history. Archaeologists not only dig in the ground to uncover information on the diversity of human lifeways: they also dig in the book shelves and into oral histories. This is especially true for learning about and creating exhibits on post-colonial and contemporary indigenous communities. I know because I am an anthropologist with a specialization in the archaeology of Northeastern North America.

As Director of Research and Collections, I not only oversee our archaeological excavations, material analyses in our laboratory and our state of the art vault (where artifactual and ethnographic items are stored when they are not on exhibit).  I also delve into the contents of our Research Library to facilitate my current research on the dozen or more tribes whose homelands were (and in some cases still are) western Connecticut when European traders and explorers first visited here. The department’s upcoming oral history project should provide even more information as well as the Indigenous perspective on the histories of these tribes.

Check out our archaeology website, Digging into the PastOpens in a new window, for information on Connecticut’s archaeological sites and educational resources.


Photo of Dr Lucianne Lavin

Lucianne Lavin, Ph.D. is an anthropologist & archaeologist who has over 40 years of research and field experience in Northeastern archaeology and anthropology, including teaching, museum exhibits and curatorial work, cultural resource management, editorial work and public relations. Dr. Lavin is a founding member of the state’s Native American Heritage Advisory Council and Editor of the journal of the Archaeological Society of Connecticut.

She received her M.A. and Ph.D. in anthropology from New York University and her B.A. from Indiana University. Dr. Lavin has written over 150 professional publications and technical reports on the archaeology and ethnohistory of the Northeast. Her award-winning book, Connecticut’s Indigenous Peoples: What Archaeology, History and Oral Traditions Teach Us about their Communities and Cultures, was recently published by Yale University Press (spring 2013). The book won an Award of Merit from the Connecticut League of History Organizations (Award of Merit Connecticut League of History Organizations 2014-02-25), won  Second Place in the books category in the 2014 New England Museum Association Publication Award Competition (Publication Award New England Museum Association 2014-07-15), and  was selected as a Choice Magazine (American Library Association) “Outstanding Academic Title for 2013 in the North America Category” (Outstanding Academic Title Choice 2014-01-21). Her book is available for purchase in the museum gift shop.


This Same, Same Sad Tale of Love –

Lover’s Leap Interactive Map

The initial goal of the our exhibit Tales of a Forgotten Day: Myth and Memory at Lovers Leap was to separate fact from fiction, and to decolonize the place-lore associated with locations called ‘Lovers Leap’ in Southern New England. What came out of our research for this exhibition was a wider study of these toponyms and realization that we needed to continue the story.

This interactive map represents the toponyms associated with “Lovers Leap” and the stories that are associated with each location.


Do you know of a Lovers Leap that is not shown on this map? Send the name and location to us and we will look into it. Send your leaps to [email protected]

Get Involved

Check out of volunteer page for more information on how to get involved!