Erik Ronnberg Jr., CAM Maritime Curator, Retires


The Cape Ann Museum’s esteemed Maritime Curator Erik Ronnberg Jr, who worked for many years as a ship model maker on Cape Ann, is retiring after nine years at the museum.

“It’s not every day you get to work alongside the best of the best,” said Cape Ann Museum Director Oliver Barker.  “Erik has been a generous and dedicated colleague and an invaluable resource to the Museum and our community.  We wish him every success in his retirement”

One of the most highly regarded model makers in the country, Ronnberg Jr. followed in the wake of his father, Erik Ronnberg, Sr., an officer in the Swedish merchant marine and first mate on a square-rigged which sailed in the “Grain Races” to Australia.  Making ship models was a common activity in their household and Ronnberg Jr., following his graduation from college with a degree in biology, decided to pursue a career in model making.  He eventually worked at the industrial model making firm Atkins & Merrill in Sudbury, apprenticed at the Newark Museum, and was Assistant Curator at the New Bedford Whaling Museum, while also making models from his studio for private and institutional clients.

In 2014, following a decline in the ship model market, Ronnberg Jr. joined the CAM as maritime curator, carrying out extensive research about the museum’s fishing and maritime industry collections.  During the pandemic, Erik’s expertise and deep insights into the fisheries history of Cape Ann have led to re-envisioned fisheries galleries displays, including the new succinct presentations of Mackerel for America; Ships Models and most recently Inshore Fisheries.

“Erik has the ability to build these miniature ships with painstaking detail, yet never losing sight of the majesty and wonder they evoked in him,” said CAM board member Sam Holdsworth, who also closely collaborated with Erik as an instrumental contributor to the Museum’s Fitz Henry Lane Catalogue Raisionne Online.  “Erik provided so much of the maritime information and color in the Fitz Henry Lane Catalogue Raisionne Online, and what he didn’t already know Erik would research to the very last detail.”  This online resource has since been recognized as a new standard in the field and much of that is due to Erik’s work.

Ronnberg Jr. also acted as editor of the Nautical Research Journal, consulted for the South Street Seaport Museum in Manhattan, and has a decided talent for painting watercolors.  Ronnberg Jr. is the 2002 Recipient of the Ship Modelers Association Harold Hahn Award, recognizing contributions in nautical research, publication of books and articles, quality and originality of models constructed, development of plans and drawings, participation in modeling organizations and influence on other ship modelers.  He also received the Edgar B. Caffrey Award in 2019 at the 37th annual Antique and Classic Boat Festival in Salem.  

Today, Ronnberg Jr.’s models are in many private collections and museums including the Smithsonian Institution, MIT Museum, Mystic Seaport Museum, New Bedford Whaling Museum, and Cape Ann Museum.

In honor of Ronnberg Jr.’s retirement, Janet and William (Wilber) Ellery James, CAM board member and board member emeritus respectively, generously donated a model of the Elsie, a storied fishing schooner from the early 20th century, that Erik constructed over eighteen hundred hours. The model is on display in fisheries galleries, and during a recent dedication Wilber James spoke to Erik’s pioneering lifelong achievement and shared that Erik is “…a prophet in his own home and a national treasure.”   


retires, erik, cape ann museum