Museum Conservation Institute (MCI)

Research Center Website

Jessica S. Johnson, Acting Director and Head of Conservation

The Museum Conservation Institute (MCI) serves as the center for specialized technical collections 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 and collections. Through its umbrella Healthy Environments, Healthy Practices, Healthy Collections initiative, MCI responds to the threats of environmental instabilities to cultural heritage in multiple and complex ways, including researching material degradation mechanisms, setting scientifically-based storage and display conditions, and developing and using less-invasive and less-damaging materials and procedures for collection conservation.

Priority research areas include:

Proteomics— gathering more information on the origin and condition of collections, cultural objects, and biological specimens from their protein materials

Modern museum and industrial materials—understanding the sustainability of modern materials to improve their preservation and conservation

Life in art and collections—detecting and controlling insects and microbes causing biodeterioration and mitigating the adverse consequences of historic bio-control, including toxic pesticide residues on collectio

Imaging and nanotechnology—bringing new spectroscopic imaging and nanotechnologies to bear on collections to further understanding of composition, deterioration, and preservation

Historical technical studies—deriving meaning from collections through analysis with state-of-the-art instruments

MCI laboratories, located in the Museum Support Center in Suitland, MD., are equipped with advanced analytical instrumentation including: variety of mass spectrometers to analyze protein structure and function, stable isotope mass spectrometry, inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry, Fourier transform infrared spectrometry, Fourier transform Raman spectrometry, dispersive Raman spectrometry, gas chromatography, gas chromatography-mass spectrometry, optical microscopy, scanning electron microscopy with energy dispersive spectrometry, micro-X-ray diffraction, X-ray fluorescence, X-ray radiography, ultraviolet-visible light spectrophotometry, 3-D microscopy, and 3-D color scanning documentation, (

Internships may be available for conservation or science students at various levels of accomplishment, including recent graduates of academic training institutions. Postdoctoral fellowships may become available for research in collaboration with MCI staff on projects in our priority research areas. For further details on these opportunities and application procedures, please see the introduction to this book.

Research Staff

Ballard, Mary W., Senior Textiles Conservator. B.A. (1971) Wellesley College; M.A. and Diploma in Conservation (1979) Institute of Fine Arts, New York University. Research specialties: Textile preservation and technical studies, particularly the light fading of dyes on fabrics; textile cleaning methods; and the biodeterioration of textiles. Contact:

Brogdon-Grantham, Shannon A., Photograph and Paper Conservator. B.A. (2009) Spelman College, M.S. (2015) University of Delaware. Research specialties: Preservation and conservation of photographs and paper-based collections materials. Contact:

Cleland, Timothy P., Research Physical Scientist.  B.S. (2007) Colorado State University; Ph.D. (2012) North Carolina State University. Research specialties: Proteomics of extant, historical, and fossil bone and tissue; characterization and quantification of proteinaceous material in museum collections; characterization of intact proteins by mass spectrometry; proteomic sample preparation. Contact:

France, Christine A., Physical Scientist. B.S. (2001) University of Maryland; M.S. (2004) North Carolina State University; Ph.D. (2008) University of Maryland. Research specialties: stable isotopic applications to paleontology, archeology, and ancient environments; diagenesis of fossil remains. Contact:

Grissom, Carol A., Senior Objects Conservator. B.A. (1970) Wellesley College; M.A. (1974) Oberlin College. Research specialties: Sculpture in bronze, stone, zinc, plaster, and wood. Contact:

Johnson, Jessica S., Head of Conservation. B.A. (1978) University of Kansas; M.A. (1986) University of Arizona; B.Sc. (1990) University College London, Institute of Archaeology. Research specialties: Archaeological and ethnographic conservation; conservation and development. Contact:

Kavich, Gwenaelle, Conservation Scientist. BSc. Chemistry (2002) Nottingham Trent University, U.K.; Ph.D. (2006) University of Pisa, Italy. Research specialties: Technical studies and scientific multidisciplinary characterization of materials and their degradation products from painting and other artifacts of the cultural heritage. Contact:

Lam, Thomas, Physical Scientist. B.S. (2004) Alfred University; M.S. (2007) Alfred University; Ph.D. (2011) Alfred University. Research specialties: Materials characterization on cultural heritage materials: scanning electron microscopy energy dispersive spectroscopy (SEM-EDS), cathodoluminescence (CL), X-ray fluorescence (XRF), and microfadeometry (MFT). Contact:

Little, Nicole C., Physical Scientist. B.A. (2001), M.A. (2005) University of Missouri. Research specialties: Chemical analysis of museum objects using inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry. Contact:

Newsome, G. Asher, Research Physical Scientist.  B.S. (2005) University of Georgia; M.S. (2007) University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; Ph.D. (2009) University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Research specialties:  Biomolecular mass spectrometry; ambient mass spectrometry (direct analysis in real time and desorption electrospray ionization; applications for surfaces, coatings, residues, ink, paint, metabolites, and chemical adulterants. Contact:

Rogala, Dawn V., Paintings Conservator. B.F.A. (1989) Boston University; M.A./C.A.S. (2006) Buffalo State College/State University of New York; Ph.D. (2014) University of Delaware. Research specialties: Technical study of paintings and paint materials from all periods, with a particular interest in modern and contemporary artworks. The analysis, documentation, and study of modern artists’ materials. Artist materials archives. Contact:

Solazzo, Caroline, Research Scientist.  B.S. (2001) University of Paris XI (Orsay); M.S. (2002) University of Paris XI (Orsay); Ph.D. (2007) University of Lille 1. Research specialties: proteomics applications to cultural heritage; characterization and species identification of keratin-based tissues and artefacts; degradation of ancient proteins Contact:

Vicenzi, Edward P., Research Scientist. B.Sc. (1982) McGill University; M.S. (1985) University of Oregon; Ph.D. (1991) Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Research specialties: Advanced chemical microanalysis of museum specimens. Contact:

Webb, E. Keats, Digital Imaging Specialist B.F.A. (2007), University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; MRes (2015) University College London. Research specialties: Scientific and computational imaging to support conservation and research of cultural heritage materials.  Techniques include spectral imaging (IR, UV, multispectral and hyperspectral), reflectance transformation imaging (RTI), 3D imaging (white light scanning and photogrammetry), and digital s-radiography. Contact:

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