The Smithsonian’s Museum Conservation Institute (MCI) is the center for specialized technical collection research and conservation for all Smithsonian museums and collections. MCI combines knowledge of materials and the history of technology with state-of-the-art instrumentation and scientific techniques to provide technical research studies and interpretation of artistic, anthropological, biological, and historical objects.

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Sanchita Balachandran, Director

Headshot of Sanchita Balachandran, MCI DirectorWe are pleased to announce that Sanchita Balachandran has been named director of the  Smithsonian's Museum Conservation Institute, effective April 8, 2024. Balachandran, a conservator of archaeological materials, was recently the director of the Johns Hopkins Archaeological Museum and associate teaching professor in the Department of Near Eastern Studies at Johns Hopkins University.

With more than 20 years' experience, Balachandran is a well-respected leader in the field of conservation. She also taught courses related to the technical study and analysis of ancient objects, and the history, ethics and future of museum practice. Previously, she was the associate director (2017-2022) and curator/conservator (2010-2017) at the Johns Hopkins Archaeological Museum.

Balachandran holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Pomona College, a master's degree in art history and an advanced certificate in art conservation from the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, and a PhD in Preservation Studies from the University of Delaware.

In the News

MCI's Shared Stewardship and Ethical Returns Statement

Nicole Little, Physical Scientist,  quoted in C&EN article, Early western European coins' Byzantine origins: Lead isotopes and trace elements in medieval coins reveal unexpected silver source, by Brianna Barbu, 4/16/24

Extinct woolly dog was carefully bred for weaving, ancient DNA confirms, The Washington Post, by Carolyn Y. Johnson, 12/144/23

The Story of the Indigenous Wool Dog Told Through Oral Histories and DNA, Hakai magazine, by Devon Bidal, 12/14/23

New Clues Emerge About the Fluffy Dogs Once Bred for Their Wool, Atlas Obscura, by Roxanne Hoorn, 12/14/23

Mutton, an Indigenous wooly dog, died in 1859 - new analysis confirms precolonial lineage of this extinct breed, once kept for their wool, The Conversation, by Audrey T. Lin, Chris Santis, and Logan Kistler, 12/14/23

Color analysis of the 1918 first US airmail stamp
MCI scientists Thomas Lam and Edward Vicenzi forged a collaboration with National Postal Museum's historian Susan Smith and conservator Scott Devine to analyze the colors in the 1918 Curtiss Jenny 24 cent airmail stamp.

Virtual Law Enforcement Workshop Addresses Cultural Property Crime in Central and Eastern Europe, US Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, 8/30/23


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