The Cape Ann Museum's Archive contains documents, books, maps, newspapers and ephemera dealing with the personal, business, legal, educational, social and religious affairs of Gloucester and Cape Ann from its inception to the present day. While most of the material relates directly to Cape Ann, the area’s centuries old connection with foreign lands through its maritime commerce make the records global in scope.
Arranged by both subject matter and family name this collection provides insight into the daily lives of the people of Cape Ann, and elsewhere, through the pieces of paper they left behind such as letters, bills, business papers, cargo manifests, military enrollments, or their signature in a hotel register. Finding aids for the larger collections can be viewed here.
Manuscripts — The manuscript collection includes letters, memoirs and diaries; financial papers and account books; logbooks and vessel manifests; military rolls, orders and awards; hotel registers; church records; deeds; association and club memberships and minutes and much more.
Printed Material — The history of a community, as seen through its printed material, is more than its tax and vital records. It is also experienced through the entertainments it enjoyed and the businesses it supported: the postcards sent home, the theatrical performances attended, the stores patronized, the foreign places visited and the newspapers read. This collection includes: the published vital records of Gloucester and Rockport to 1850; family histories, genealogies and bibles; histories of Cape Ann, Gloucester and Rockport; maps and charts ranging from a 1750 nautical chart of the Caribbean Islands to a 2007 aerial view of Dogtown showing the trails and old house cellars; postcards, trade cards, programs and brochures; guide books; newspapers and magazines.
Historic Photographs — The Historic Photo Collection contains over 100,000 images of people, places and things, all relating to Cape Ann. Dating from the 1840s to the present, these include daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, paper print stereographs, cartes de visite, cabinet cards, and film and glass negatives. Items that have been digitized are available for study by appointment; reproduction rights on select images are available for a fee.
Explore the Archives
A small sampling of objects and collections from the Cape Ann Museum's Archival Collection:
Documenting African-American History — Little record remains of the lives and experiences of African Americans on Cape Ann in its early years, though ample evidence exists that enslaved and freed African Americans lived here from at least the eighteenth century onward. See some of this evidence and learn more at Unfolding Histories: Cape Ann before 1900 and at the Cape Ann Slavery & Abolition Trust website.
Phillips & Holloran Architectural Drawings — In 2011 the Museum received an extraordinary gift of over 300 architectural plans from Cindy Holloran, widow of Gloucester architect Robert T. Holloran. These plans range from designs for private dwellings such as Isaac Patch’s East Gloucester Cottage to municipal buildings such as the Maplewood Avenue School. They also include the original 1870 plans for Gloucester’s City Hall by Bryant & Rogers, obtained when alterations to the Hall were contemplated in the 1920s.
1851 Walling Map — The 1851 Walling Map was created by Henry Francis Walling (1825–1888). Walling began his map-making career as an assistant surveyor for the town of Providence, RI. He later moved to New York and then to Boston where he started his own cartography business.
Sea Mosses — Interest in collecting, drying and pressing algae, seaweed or sea moss, became a very popular pastime in the mid to late 1800s as the Victorians discovered the fascinating world of nature.
Victorian Trade Cards — Popular between 1870 and 1900, so called “trade cards” were used by tradespeople to advertise their products.
Valentines — The valentines in the Museum's collection range from the mid-19th to the early 20th century, most acquired by donation from unknown sources—link to the Valentine Cards Collection Finding Aid.