Smithsonian Museum Conservation Institute Meets Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Challenge Grant

Establishes Endowed Directorship

The Smithsonian’s Museum Conservation Institute is pleased to announce that it has completed a $1.75 million challenge grant awarded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in December 2009.  With the required $3.25 million in private gifts in hand, the research center can now establish a $5 million endowment for the MCI directorship—a position currently held by Robert Koestler.

With the salary, benefits, and research funds provided by the endowment income for the MCI directorship, the incumbent will be able to focus on emerging technologies and deterioration processes that advance the Institute’s scientific efforts as they apply to cultural heritage conservation and preservation. Koestler is known for his advances in art conservation research and practice, including quantification and early detection of biodeterioration; assessment of visual changes in material surfaces; and control of insect and fungal infestations in objects. He will use the endowment income to encourage new research in these areas.

The 21-member Institute, located in Suitland, Md., is the Smithsonian’s center for advanced scientific study and conservation of museum collections, and it plays a vital role in protecting the artistic and cultural legacy of the Smithsonian's diverse collections by providing scientific expertise for all nineteen museums. MCI conducts in-depth studies of artistic, anthropological and historic objects using state-of-the art analytical techniques to explain their provenance, composition and cultural context, and to improve the Smithsonian’s conservation and collections storage capabilities. The Institute’s knowledge of collections and unique analytical capabilities annually result in hundreds of requests for consultations from organizations around the world and about 50 publications per year.  

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is a private foundation that makes grants on a selective basis in the areas of higher education, museums and art conservation, performing arts, and conservation and the environment. The Mellon Foundation has been a long-standing benefactor to the Smithsonian, supporting, in addition to this gift, a wide array of scientific, cultural and arts projects.


Recent related Information:

Mellon Grant Launches Campaign for Directorship

The Smithsonian’s Museum Conservation Institute (MCI) was awarded a challenge grant of $1.75 million by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, to establish an endowment for the MCI directorship. In order to realize the challenge, MCI must raise $3.25 million to fully endow at $5 million the directorship at MCI.  With this challenge grant the institution has the ability to permanently name the directorship for a single gift of $3.25 million.

The Museum Conservation Institute, located just outside Washington, D.C., in Suitland, Maryland, is the Smithsonian Institution’s center for advanced scientific study and conservation of museum collections.  As a pan-institutional unit, MCI serves as a critical resource for most of the Smithsonian’s museums, research centers, and offices, first and foremost by providing them with the scientific expertise they need to carry out their responsibilities for the diverse collections under their care.

MCI’s work is interdisciplinary.  Our highly skilled teams of scientists and conservators, state-of-the-art instrumentation, and a history of significant research have combined to establish MCI’s standing as a major contributor to the preservation of cultural heritage worldwide.  
MCI conducts in-depth studies of artistic, anthropological, and historic objects using state-of-the-art analytical techniques to elucidate the provenance, composition, and cultural context of Smithsonian collections, and to improve our conservation and collections storage capabilities.

The endowed Directorship will allow MCI to increase its investment in high priority research areas, such as developing new methods of nano-scale analysis for museum materials; understanding the degradation of modern museum and industrial materials; applying genomic, proteomic, and isotopic technologies to biological materials in museum collections; and detecting and controlling the biodeterioration of cultural heritage, by hiring new research scientists and supporting their work.  Also, it will allow MCI to support scientific analysis throughout the Smithsonian by developing a fully-accessible research core with state-of-the-art analytical capabilities by acquiring new instruments and secure operating funds. 

MCI, now occupying 25,000 square feet, currently has a staff of twenty one, including research scientists, conservation scientists, conservators (in furniture, objects, paintings, and textiles), and administrators.  Annually, MCI handles more than 125 requests for analysis and conservation assistance and completes more than 7,500 scientific analyses, which lead to 58 publications in 2008. MCI has unique analytical capabilities and collections knowledge, as shown by requests for consultations from within the Smithsonian, from Smithsonian affiliates, and outside organizations, such as the White House, U.S. House of Representatives, Defense Intelligence Agency, the U.S. Secret Service, World Monuments Fund, and other federal, museum, and academic organizations.