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Research and Collections

From its beginning in 1836, the New York State Museum has been home to some of the nation’s leading scientists, including pioneers in archaeology, paleontology, ethnology, and botany. Its collections now rank among the finest in many fields and total more than sixteen million specimens, objects, and artifacts.

  • Three Sisters Diorama

    Archaeology

  • moth

    Biology

  • close up layers of rock

    Geology

  • Cultural History

    History

  • White basket

    Native American Ethnography

  • Cohoes Mastodon

    Paleontology

Research at the New York State Museum today is as exciting as it is varied, with scientists and historians actively directing projects in biology, anthropology, geology, paleontology, and history. Research by staff represents one tangible way in which information about the natural and cultural histories of New York, and the world, is made available to the public. Research findings are presented in scholarly and popular publications, at professional meetings, in exhibitions, and in public programs.

Researchers throughout the world use the collections of the New York State Museum to address questions about New York's natural and human heritage. The Museum’s collections are made available to researchers and scholars and are also used in exhibitions and public programs. Participation in Museum collections curation and research projects is possible through internships and volunteer opportunities.

To explore the Museum’s Research and Collections Division, hover your mouse over the Research and Collections block at the top navigation bar. 

News Articles

Painting: "Still Life with Fruit" by Pieter Claesz (1644)
Published November 17, 2020 | Historical Archaeology

Archaeologists can glean a tremendous amount of information from soil sediments collected at archaeological sites. Pollen grains, phytoliths, seeds, and other remnant plant material can survive for thousands of years below ground under the right conditions. These data allow for the...

Silk Beaded Bag by Ken Williams Jr. (front)
Published November 4, 2020 | Ethnography

Inspired by the path-breaking beadwork artistry of Gahano (Caroline Parker Mt. Pleasant, Tonawanda Seneca), Ken Williams Jr.’s hand stitched silk and beaded bag pays tribute to the artistry of Seneca and Haudenosaunee beadwork in every detail. From the shape and construction of the bag, the tiny...

Here are some examples of Native American projectile points in the recently donated McVaugh collection.
Published November 2, 2020 | Native American Archaeology

Over the years, the NYSM has received donations of some very large archaeological collections numbering hundreds of thousands of specimens, but small collections can also be important accessions. Born in 1909, Roger McVaugh grew up on his parents’ small hog farm north of Kinderhook, Columbia...

Here are some examples of Native American projectile points in the recently donated McVaugh collection.
Published November 2, 2020 | Native American Archaeology

Over the years, the NYSM has received donations of some very large archaeological collections numbering hundreds of thousands of specimens, but small collections can also be important accessions. Born in 1909, Roger McVaugh grew up on his parents’ small hog farm north of Kinderhook, Columbia...

Tagged Mussels
Published July 31, 2020 | Malacology

Challenges in science often require solutions from across various disciplines and involve collaborations between diverse agencies. A recent agreement between the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) and Arconic to protect habitat and freshwater mussels in the Lower...

19th-century wine bottle fragment excavated at the Shaker Settlement, Watervliet, NY
Published July 14, 2020 | Historical Archaeology

Ann Lee founded the first communal settlement of the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing, commonly known as the Shakers, in Watervliet New York in 1776. Lee died in 1784 but the community she established continued until 1915. Archaeological excavations at the...

A piece of grape shot (left) and an exploded mortar bomb (right) recovered during scientific excavation at the Lake George Battlefield Park
Published June 24, 2020 | Historical Archaeology

The NYSM Historical Archaeology Collections now includes artifacts from the 2014, 2015 and 2016 excavations at the Lake George Battlefield Park in Lake George, New York. David Starbuck, who conducted the first professional archaeology in the park in 2000 and 2001 (the artifacts recovered during...

"Treaty Rights Footstool" by Karen Ann Hoffman
Published June 24, 2020 | Ethnography

NYSM Ethnology Collections featured artist, Karen Ann Hoffman, is a recipient of a 2020 NEA National Heritage Fellowship! (National Endowment for the Arts press release)

Karen Ann Hoffman, enrolled member of the Oneida Nation (Wisconsin) is an artist,...

E2014.24  "Strawberry Moon" by Tammy Tarbell-Boehning (Mohawk)   Raised glass beadwork on clay
Published May 13, 2020 | Ethnography

One sub-discipline within cultural anthropology is the medical anthropology, or the focus on how humans think of medicine, illness and practice health and well-being. Today's artwork from NYSM Ethnology collections recognizes Indigenous medicinal knowledge!

In 1536, French navigator...

Published May 5, 2020 | Native American Archaeology

Archaeologists have a lot of dates wrong for North American indigenous history – but we're using new techniques to get it right

...

Magnetic susceptibility results overlaid with surface artifact locations show a strong correlation between finds and MS "hot spots"
Published April 6, 2020 | Historical Archaeology

The New York State Museum, in collaboration with the Open Space Institute and Stockbridge Munsee Mohican Tribal Preservation Office, recently completed a controlled surface artifact collection and a magnetic susceptibility survey (MS) at the location of a tenant house owned by former Albany...

Volunteers Sue S. and Neil W. pause during block excavations at the OPS Site, July 10, 2019
Published April 6, 2020 | Native American Archaeology

In July and September 2019, NYSM archaeologists and volunteers conducted their fifth season of excavations at the OPS Paleoindian site in Madison County. Discovered in 2015, the OPS site has yielded stone fluted points of the Crowfield "style," indicating an early Native American encampment...

Spoil heap (also known as a backdirt pile) as it was seen in May 2019 at the Lake George Courtland Street Burial Ground
Published December 19, 2019 | Bioarchaeology

When a historic unmarked cemetery was found during construction in Lake George, New York last winter, it was presumed to date to the mid-18th century French and Indian War. The discovery of a regimental button from the First Pennsylvania Battalion however placed the cemetery at the time of the...

Published December 19, 2019 | Historical Archaeology

Archaeologists from the New York State Museum and the University of Albany completed two collaborative field schools in Historical Archaeology at the Ten Broeck Mansion, located in Albany, NY's Arbor Hill neighborhood during the summers of 2017 and 2018. These excavations concentrated on...

Examples of Paleoindian artifacts from the OPS site. A: fluted point with impact fracture; B: Endscraper, hafted tool likely used for hide working for skin clothing manufacture; C: Hafted perforator for working bone or wood; D: Graver, delicate hand-held
Published December 19, 2019 | Native American Archaeology

In June 2015, avocational archaeologists Mike Beardsley and Mark Clymer were surveying for Native American archaeological sites on farm property owned by Tom and Joyce Bush in central New York. Walking across their fields, Mike spied a large scraping tool of chert. Days later, he discovered a...

Published October 18, 2019 | Geology

This fall State Museum scientists will join staff from the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and Cornell University to conduct fieldwork into the Ice Age landscape of the Ithaca, NY area.

The scientists will core as deep as 700 feet underground and...

Dr. Michael Lucas, Curator of Historical Archaeology (left) and Marty Pickands, retired museum archaeologist (right) overlooking excavation by SUNY Albany field school students -- photo by Derek J. Healey
Published December 21, 2018 | Historical Archaeology

The museum's curator of historical archaeology, Michael Lucas, and project manager of The Archaeology of Slavery in the Hudson Valley, is featured in the Winter 2018-19 issue of...

Lafayette Plate
Published December 20, 2018 | Historical Archaeology

Historical archaeology is a multidisciplinary field combining written historical records with archaeological data to study places, objects and issues of the past. In North America, historical archaeology begins with European colonization. One of the issues -- highly relevant to present day North...

View of the exhibit, "Community and Continuity: Native American Art of New York" at the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art, SUNY New Paltz
Published November 9, 2018 | Ethnography

 “Community and Continuity: Native American Art of New York,” an exhibition at The Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art at SUNY New Paltz, featuring selections from the New York State Museum’s collections of contemporary...

OPS excavation crew, September 20, 2018
Published October 25, 2018 | Native American Archaeology

In September, NYSM archaeologists completed the 2018 excavations at the OPS Paleoindian site in Madison County, New York. The OPS site has yielded fluted points of the Crowfield "style," indicating an early Native American encampment dating to the late Ice Age, circa 12,000-11,600 years ago....

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