Following the US Bicentennial in 1976, the federal government launched an initiative to establish nonprofit regional conservation centers to address the care of the nation's cultural patrimony.
The Williamstown Art Conservation Center was one of several regional facilities founded across the country to serve smaller institutions that did not have conservators on staff. WACC was incorporated in 1977 by a founding consortium of five members, on the grounds of the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute. Original staff included three paintings conservators and one paper conservator. The next fifteen years saw rapid growth in the Center's size and services, with the addition of the Furniture and Wood Objects Department in 1985 and the Sculpture/Objects Department in 1989. Analytical Services was added in 1994. Personnel increased steadily, as did member organizations.
In 1997, Thomas Branchick, who first arrived at WACC in 1981 as a third-year program intern, was named WACC's third director. Under Branchick's leadership, WACC has become one of the most esteemed regional centers in the nation. In 2001, WACC, in association with the High Museum of Art, founded the Atlanta Art Conservation Center, the first regional conservation facility in the Southeast. In 2006, ground was broken for Stone Hill Center, the new Clark building designed by Pritzker Prize architect Tadao Ando, which includes a specially designed, state-of-the-art conservation facility. WACC moved into its new home in 2008, with a member consortium of more than fifty organizations throughout the Northeast and beyond.