Founded in 1813 as the Cape Ann Scientific and Literary Museum, the Cape Ann Museum celebrates and preserves Gloucester's art, history and culture. It features art galleries, numerous historical artifacts on display, a library and archives, two sculpture gardens and two historic homes, one of which—the White-Ellery House—is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The museum boasts the largest collection of paintings and drawings of local artist Fitz Henry Lane (1804–1865), whose paintings of marine landscapes garnered him worldwide recognition. The museum also has a library and archives, which contains thousands of items comprising books, deeds and photographs.
The museum was first permanently located in the historic Captain Elias Davis House, which was built in 1804. Today the museum's furniture and decorative arts collection is located there. In the coming decades, the museum expanded and acquired more collections. The White-Ellery House was moved to its current location in 1947 as it was under threat of demolition.