Interview with George Martin Cunha, February 26, 1991
Project: University of Kentucky Oral History Project
Interview SummaryGeorge Martin Cunha talks about the origins of his interest in books and the craft of book-binding which began "as a youngster", and says he continued to acquire books especially hard to find in his travels with the Navy. His background in chemistry motivated him to investigate why his books that were 200-300 years old were in excellent condition as opposed to his newer volumes. He lived on the South Coast of England from 1949-1951 during a Navy exchange program with the Royal Navy, where he met a retired gentleman who taught him bookbinding. Cunha later went to the Navy War College and then worked near Brown University in Rhode Island, where he took bookbinding lessons. His wife suggested he pursue conservation and preservation as a second career after he retired from the Navy, so Cunha wrote several libraries offering his services and the Boston Athenaeum accepted him, so they moved to Massachusetts
Cunha explains that he worked at the Athenaeum for ten years and describes his work with George Washington's library, the history of this collection, and his suggestion that his finished project be returned to Mt. Vernon. He traveled to many places in Europe with his wife, Dorothy, to study bookbinding techniques. He discusses his first cooperative conservation efforts in Massachusetts, in particular the New England Document Conversation Center, where he was appointed the first Director in 1973. He says he considers himself to be a conservator, and thinks he was the first to suggest the concept of cooperative conservation. He says that "conservation needs to be an integral part of the management of the library" and emphasizes that conservation also includes protection from theft and vandalism.
Cunha talks about the history and research of acid hydrolysis, aqueous and non aqueous deacidification of paper, the need for mass deacidification techniques for conservation and preservation of collections, and discusses the differences in these concepts from bookbinding. He talks about the discovery in Europe of an alkaline paper process that was not only cheaper but virtually halted the deterioration of paper. He discusses the history of handmade papermaking and talks about papermakers he met in Istanbul, Turkey.
Interview LC SubjectCunha, George Daniel Martin Cunha, George Daniel Martin--Interviews University of Kentucky University of Kentucky--History Book collecting. Chemistry Conservation and restoration Historians Paper Preservation and restoration Rare books. Whitehill, Walter Muir, 1905-1978. World War, 1939-1945 Washington, George, 1732-1799.
Interview RightsAll rights to the interviews, including but not restricted to legal title, copyrights and literary property rights, have been transferred to the University of Kentucky Libraries.
Interview UsageInterviews may be reproduced with permission from Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, Special Collections, University of Kentucky Libraries.
Interviews may be reproduced with permission from Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, Special Collections, University of Kentucky Libraries.
All rights to the interviews, including but not restricted to legal title, copyrights and literary property rights, have been transferred to the University of Kentucky Libraries.
Add this interview to your cart in order to begin the process of requesting access to a copy of and/or permission to reproduce interview(s).
Cunha, George Martin Interview by Karen Ellenberg. 26 Feb. 1991. Lexington, KY: Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.
Cunha, G.M. (1991, February 26). Interview by K. Ellenberg. University of Kentucky Oral History Project. Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries, Lexington.
Cunha, George Martin, interview by Karen Ellenberg. February 26, 1991, University of Kentucky Oral History Project, Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.
You may come across language in UK Libraries Special Collections Research Center collections and online resources that you find harmful or offensive. SCRC collects materials from different cultures and time periods to preserve and make available the historical record. These materials document the time period when they were created and the view of their creator. As a result, some may demonstrate racist and offensive views that do not reflect the values of UK Libraries.
If you find description with problematic language that you think SCRC should review, please contact us at SCRC@uky.edu.
Persistent Link for this Record: https://kentuckyoralhistory.org/ark:/16417/xt7d7w676c57