When the Smithsonian Institution Women's Council (SIWC) was formed in 1972, it immediately adopted as a primary goal the establishment of a child care center at the Institution. This council of Smithsonian employees, established for the purpose of conveying to the Smithsonian administration the concerns and needs of all employees but especially women, continued to work on that goal for the next fifteen years. The SIWC intensified their efforts in 1986: conducted surveys to determine the need for and support of an on-site child care center, conducted feasibility studies for the various sites proposed, and obtained the professional advice of child care consultants. In January of 1987, as a result of these efforts, John Jameson, Assistant Secretary for Administration, appointed a Smithsonian Child Care Advisory Board (CCAB). The mission of the CCAB was to investigate and report to SI management the prospective budget, policy, operations, facilities, and curriculum of a child care center at the Smithsonian. The Board originally formed three subcommittees: policy, budget, and facilities. Each subcommittee undertook an in-depth analysis of their area of responsibility and formulated a comprehensive overview of the necessary steps toward implementation. When the Advisory Board presented its business plan to the SI Management Committee in May of 1987, the Committee gave its approval to proceed in setting up a center.
Although the Smithsonian generously offered to provide start-up funds and continual rent-free space and utilities, as well as other "in-kind" services, the Board and the Smithsonian agreed that the child care center would be independently incorporated. From the beginning, the CCAB anticipated that more than one center would ultimately be formed: the first child care center would hold fifty toddlers from ages two to five, and subsequent centers would be formed as need required and means allowed. In November of 1987, the CCAB was ready to incorporate formally as the Board of Directors for the Smithsonian Child Care Center, and to look forward to the opening of the first center in the National Museum of American History, which opened on October 3, 1988. As was stipulated in the Board By-Laws and Articles of Incorporation, the founding Board of Directors was replaced shortly thereafter by an elected, parent-majority board, and a Parents Association was established as a means of providing parent input and support for the Center and its Board. On January 1, 1989, the newly formed Board changed the name of the child care center to the Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center, to more accurately reflect the unique character of the Center and its museum-based curriculum.
The Board officers at the time of incorporation were: Gretchen Gayle Ellsworth, President; Betty B. Derbyshire, Vice-President; Kathleen T. Baxter, Secretary; Katherine Sprague, Treasurer; Lauryn G. Grant, Counsel. The Board officers during the first year of operation (Fall 1988-Fall 1989) were: Kathleen T. Baxter, President; John Daniel Reaves, Vice-President and Counsel; Frances T. Jones, Secretary; Diane Homiak, Treasurer.
Since 1989, the Board of Directors has devoted itself to oversight of the operations of the center, to further development of curriculum, and to expansion into other buildings. The Board began a project in 1989 with IBM to translate, produce, and market the "Museum Magic" curriculum for computer, which was never completed. The Board has also investigated publishing the curriculum. In January 1991, the Infant Care Center opened in the Arts & Industries Building. This branch of SEEC served 25 children from three months to two years old. The planning was undertaken by an Infant Task Force, made up of members of the Board of Directors. The two branches of SEEC are governed centrally, under the same Director, Board of Directors, and Parents Association.