George M. Cunha, Director Emeritus and founder of the Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC) in Andover, Massachusetts, died of an aneurysm on November 29 in Lexington, Kentucky. He was 82 years old. Born in Providence, Rhode Island, and long-time resident of Topsfield, Massachusetts, Mr. Cunha "retired" to Kentucky with his late wife Dorothy Grant Cunha in 1980. He was a leader of great vision and an international authority in the field of preservation of library and archival materials.
Mr. Cunha was tireless in his efforts to spread the word about preservation and was mentor to hundreds of students and professionals who went on to pursue careers in preservation. He taught and consulted across the United States and abroad. Wherever he traveled, he was an effective advocate for the preservation of our documentary heritage. He influenced a whole generation of people who now practice conservation and manage preservation programs in institutions in all parts of the country. His books are recognized as classics in the field and filled a vacuum at a time when there was no other literature on the subject of conservation of library materials. His memory will live on in the regional conservation center he was influential in establishing and in all of the people whom he trained and inspired.
A graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the United States Naval War College, Captain Cunha was a combat pilot during World War II and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. In 1963, after 26 years of service in the Navy as a pilot and underwater weapons specialist, he became Chief Conservator at the Library of the Boston Athenaeum. He spearheaded the creation of the New England Document Conservation Center (as it was then known) and became its first director in 1973. Captain Cunha was a Fellow of the American Institute for Conservation, the Royal Society of Arts (London), the Society of American Archivists, and the Pilgrim Society.
He is survived by two sons, James Henry Ryan, Lexington, Kentucky, and George Daniel Martin Cunha, Jr., San Diego, California; a brother, Robert Martin Cunha of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and sister, Constance Cunha Foley of McLean, Virginia; 14 grandchildren; 11 great-grandchildren; and two great-great-grandchildren. Funeral services were held December 2 at Mary Queen of the Holy Rosary Catholic Church.
A memorial fund has been set up in George Cunha's memory to support the training of beginning conservators at Northeast Document Conservation Center. Contributions may be made to the George M. Cunha Scholarship Fund for Book & Paper Conservation. Checks should be made payable to NEDCC and mailed to:
Northeast Document Conservation Center
The George M. Cunha Scholarship Fund for Book & Paper Conservation
100 Brickstone Square
Andover, MA 01810