The Legacy of the Family-Owned Fishing Vessel

June 25, 2022 — Sept. 18, 2022

Downtown campus, 27 Pleasant Street


In recognition of the 400th anniversary of the first English settlement in Gloucester, an event to be marked in 2023, the Cape Ann Museum has organized a special exhibition exploring the important legacy of the family-owned commercial fishing vessel. The installation has been created with materials related to family-owned fishing vessels provided to the Museum by the community. 

Throughout history, the people of Cape Ann have been linked to the sea and to fishing. The industry has provided jobs for waves of immigrants and given rise to inventions and innovations associated with the harvesting, processing, and the distribution of fish. Fishing has also influenced the collective identity of the region. From art and literature, to music, architecture, religious and secular traditions, the fishing industry has had profound and enduring effects on the character of Cape Ann and its people.  

At the core of the local commercial fishing industry is the family-owned boat. Large and small, eastern rig and western rig, steel-hulled and wooden-hulled, the varieties are endless. Tying the lot of them together is the profound sense of pride individuals and families feel in their fishing vessels. Through good times and bad, the boats are always there. Often named for family members, they represent opportunity, independence, and success.

Visitors are invited to share their thoughts and remembrances of family-owned fishing boats through a story-collecting kiosk set up in the gallery and at home from their own computer or cell phone via this link. Stories collected will be preserved in the Museum’s archives for future generations. A few of these stories can already be viewed on our Vimeo page.


R.HARTING, Model of the “St. Nicholas”, 1969, wood, metal, enamel paint, cordage. Collection of the Parisi Family, on loan to the Cape Ann Museum, Gloucester, MA.


The below video is displayed in the gallery alongside the art and artifacts loaned from the community. It shows photographs loaned to Museum by over 35 families for this exhibit. The photographs show a wide range of imagery surrounding a family's fishing history and their vessels. Photographs are displayed in alphabetical order by lender.

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