Museum Conservation Institute

Last updated
Museum Conservation Institute
Location Suitland, Maryland
Director Robert J. Koestler
Public transit access Suitland

The Smithsonian's Museum Conservation Institute [1] (MCI) aims to be the center for specialized conservation and technical collection research for all of the Smithsonian museums [2] and collections. [3] MCI's staff combine state-of-the-art instrumentation and scientific techniques with the knowledge of materials and the history of technology to provide technical research studies and interpretation of art, as well as historical and anthropological objects, to improve the conservation and collections storage capabilities at the Smithsonian. For the majority of the Smithsonian collections, MCI is the only Smithsonian resource for technical studies and analyses.

Smithsonian Institution Group of museums and research centers administered by the United States government

The Smithsonian Institution, also known simply as the Smithsonian, is a group of museums and research centers administered by the Government of the United States. It was founded on August 10, 1846, "for the increase and diffusion of knowledge". The institution is named after its founding donor, British scientist James Smithson. It was originally organized as the "United States National Museum", but that name ceased to exist as an administrative entity in 1967.

Research systematic study undertaken to increase knowledge

Research is "creative and systematic work undertaken to increase the stock of knowledge, including knowledge of humans, culture and society, and the use of this stock of knowledge to devise new applications." It is used to establish or confirm facts, reaffirm the results of previous work, solve new or existing problems, support theorems, or develop new theories. A research project may also be an expansion on past work in the field. Research projects can be used to develop further knowledge on a topic, or in the example of a school research project, they can be used to further a student's research prowess to prepare them for future jobs or reports. To test the validity of instruments, procedures, or experiments, research may replicate elements of prior projects or the project as a whole. The primary purposes of basic research are documentation, discovery, interpretation, or the research and development (R&D) of methods and systems for the advancement of human knowledge. Approaches to research depend on epistemologies, which vary considerably both within and between humanities and sciences. There are several forms of research: scientific, humanities, artistic, economic, social, business, marketing, practitioner research, life, technological, etc. The scientific study of research practices is known as meta-research.



The Smithsonian's Board of Regents [4] established the Conservation Research Laboratory of the United States National Museum in 1963 in response to a growing need to support conservation of the entire Institution's collections.

In 1965 the name of the laboratory was changed to the Conservation Analytical Laboratory (CAL). In 1983, the laboratory moved to the Museum Support Center [5] in Suitland, Maryland. Congress mandated a national conservation training program among other wider responsibilities including an expanded conservation science research program.

The Board of Regents approved a name change to the Smithsonian Center for Materials Research and Education (SCMRE) in 1998. SCMRE's mission was to serve all museum communities - national and international, and provide professional training and education programs.

In 2006 the Board of Regents approved the name change to the Museum Conservation Institute (MCI).


Robert J. Koestler, [6] 2004-

Lambertus van Zelst, 1984–2003

Robert M. Organ, 1967–1983

Charles H. Olin, 1966–1967


MCI's laboratories are equipped with advanced analytical instrumentation, [7] including:

The Smithsonian's Museum Conservation Institute and the Institut Photonique d’Analyse Non-destructive Européen des Matériaux Anciens platform at Soleil have formed a partnership to use the power of the third-generation synchrotron to study and preserve the priceless Smithsonian collections. [13]

Further reading

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Conservation and restoration of cultural heritage process of protecting tangible cultural heritage, including artworks, architecture, archaeology, and museum collections

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Smithsonian Museum Support Center

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Conservation scientist

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Conservation and restoration at the Smithsonian Institution deals with the care of the 138 million artifacts located in the collections of Smithsonian Institution. Work is conducted by one research center, the Museum Conservation Institute (MCI), and by conservators at the Smithsonian's museums, galleries, zoo. Smithsonian conservators provide myriad services to their units, including exhibit preparation of the museum collection and loan objects, advising on object care, training for future generations of conservationists, engaging in routine preventive care on a daily basis, conducting research projects related to the collections, and examining objects for evidence of manufacturing techniques and previous restorations All conservation labs collectively further the mission of the Smithsonian Institution, "the increase and diffusion of knowledge." Founded in 1846 the Smithsonian is the world's largest museum and research complex, consisting of 19 museums and galleries, the National Zoological Park, and nine research facilities.

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  1. Museum Conservation Institute Fact Sheet
  2. Smithsonian Institution Fact Sheet
  3. Smithsonian Collections Fact Sheet
  4. Smithsonian Board of Regents Fact Sheet
  5. Museum Support Center Fact Sheet
  6. Robert J. Koestler
  7. MCI Instrumentation
  8. Hudson River Plane Crash
  9. MCI's IRMS Facilities
  10. MCI's Imaging Studio Archived 2010-10-13 at the Wayback Machine
  11. MCI's Proteomics Research
  12. MCI's Imaging Studio
  13. Smithsonian and SOLEIL Synchrotron