In 1963, the Conservation Research Laboratory was established by the Smithsonian’s Board of Regents to respond to the growing need for a scientific laboratory to support conservation of collections across the Institution.  

The name of the laboratory was changed in 1965 to the Conservation Analytical Laboratory to better reflect the needs of its constituents, and in 1998 to the Smithsonian Center for Materials Research and Education in recognition of the laboratory’s mission to serve national and international museum communities, as well as the Smithsonian, and provide professional training and education programs.  

The latest name change in 2006 to Museum Conservation Institute reaffirms the central role of the unit to provide highly technical conservation science to support the Smithsonian museums and collections.