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Subject: A death

A death

From: Ann N'Gadi <ngadia<-a>
Date: Thursday, August 28, 2014
Roland H. Cunningham

Senior Paintings Conservator, retired,
Smithsonian Museum Conservation Institute

It is with great sadness we have to announce the passing of Ron
Cunningham, retired senior paintings conservator at the Museum
Conservation Institute (MCI), on August 16, 2014.  Ron came to the
Smithsonian's Conservation Analytical Laboratory (now called MCI) in
1982 from the Hartford Athenaeum, where he was already an
established presence in the paintings conservation community.  As a
student at New York University, Ron originally planned to attend
medical school-he had the meticulousness, the stamina, and the wit
to do it, but he found blood was unpleasant to deal with-and then he
found conservation.  What medicine lost, the conservation field
gained-a wonderful comrade, a thoughtful and helpful colleague, a
great paintings conservator, with oceans of friends.  When the Arno
overflowed its banks, carrying mud and heating oil into Florentine
churches, museums, and libraries, many conservators and conservation
students went over to help.  A few were asked to stay on and help
complete the post-emergency, actual treatments.  Ron was one of the

His career in conservation was marked by many such twists and turns,
though on the face of it his life was calm.  His marriage to Susan
Mansfield flourished for forty years with motorcycles (his), two
charming sons, Scott and Ross, and one granddaughter, Iane-Rayne.
The treatment-oriented Conservation Analytical Laboratory
metamorphosed into the Smithsonian Center for Materials Research and
Education, where research on pigments and analytical work was the
norm, and more recently to the Museum Conservation Institute with a
range of concentrations.  Ron quietly moved into areas that
challenged others, operating equipment that required finesse
(because it was so old it could have been accessioned into the
Smithsonian collection or because it required so much care and
precision to operate successfully).

Ron radiographed all the space suits for the NASM curator, Amanda
Young-so successfully they became a popular exhibition in their own
right.  When NASA PhD's convened at MCI to examine the National Air
and Space Museum (NASM) collection of Apollo spacesuits, Ron was
delighted to help.  However, the NASA scientists came only two days
after the new scanning electron microscope (SEM) with its glitzy new
large vacuum-chamber was up and running.  Ron had never used this
SEM before, but everyone took it for granted that he would deliver
perfect images and, with a smile, he did.

>From the Arno to the Potomac and many places in between, Ron
Cunningham was the colleague everyone wanted to have next door.  He
retired from the Smithsonian in 2010 and remained in the Washington
suburbs.  His illness from cancer was of short duration, but we will
miss him for a long time.  Further arrangements will be announced

                  Conservation DistList Instance 28:13
                  Distributed: Friday, August 29, 2014
                       Message Id: cdl-28-13-002
Received on Thursday, 28 August, 2014

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