The Department of Archaeology and Ethnography was set up in 1952 and in 1961 a separate Ethnography Department was formed (since 1996 this is called the Ethnology Department). The head of department is Dr Žilvytis Šaknys.

The Department’s manuscript room contains more than 2,250 holdings (descriptions, drawings, sketches) and more than 90,000 photographic negatives. This material was collected during expeditions and also by local historians and school children. The archival material covers all of Lithuania’s regions and all aspects of ethnic culture. There is material from Lithuanian sites in Belarus, Latvia, and Poland. There is a card catalogue of descriptions and drawings and the photographs have been classified by topics. University teachers, students, museum workers and local historians have access to this archive as well as members of the Institute.
Since 2001 the department has published a learned journal: Lietuvos etnologija. Socialinės antropologijos ir etnologijos studijos [Lithuanian Ethnology. Social Anthropology and Ethnology Studies]. The journal continues a series of monographs and studies under the title Lietuvos etnologija [Lithuanian Ethnology], which ran independently between 1996 and 2002.
The Department issues another serial publication, Etnologiniai tyrinėjimai Lietuvoje [Ethnological research in Lithuania] (since 1999) as a successor to Etnografiniai tyrinėjimai Lietuvoje [Ethnographic research in Lithuania] (1974-98). This publishes conference papers.
Since 1969 the department has contributed to the Bonn publication, Internationale Volkskundliche Bibliographie.