Although repair and cleaning activities are recorded as early as 1905, the Gabriella and Leo Beranek Textile Conservation Laboratory was not officially established until 1960. Originally the Textile Conservation Workroom, the lab primarily serves the textiles and costumes collection, a survey collection of 35,000 objects with significant holdings in American, European, Asian, Egyptian, and Peruvian cultures. In addition, textile conservators respond to requests for conservation assistance from other curatorial departments housing textile-related objects, such as upholstered furniture and multi-media contemporary art.
The lab is mainly occupied with preparing objects for exhibition. This work includes conservation treatments, documentation, mount-making, installation, and deinstallation. When a new work of art comes into the collection, additional preparation is often required before the object can be stored, including the construction of supports or storage containers that will both protect the object and make most efficient use of limited storage space. Additional activities include preparing and transporting objects for photography, environmental monitoring of storage and galleries, making improvements to storage facilities, and managing accurate documentation records.