Sawyer Free Library to Unveil Ambitious Public Interactive History Tool at Jan 31 Event


After more than two years of development, the Sawyer Free Library (SFL) next week will unveil a public interactive platform that charts Gloucester's history, from Indigenous life before its founding in 1623 by settlers through its deep and varied history as America’s oldest seaport. 

“Gloucester Timeline: An Interactive History” is the library's legacy gift to the city to mark its anniversary.  The unveiling will take place from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, January 31, at the Beauport Hotel in Gloucester. 

As part of the event, the Gloucester 400+ organization will also officially donate its award-winning “400 Stories Project” archive to the public library as its legacy gift to the city.  Both archives will be publicly available immediately through the SFL’s website, and they will be an experiential feature in the Sawyer Free Library’s new, $29 million renovation when it opens in 2025.  

The event at the Beauport will feature storytellers from the community, an interactive Gloucester trivia game, and a demonstration of the new interactive research tool.  The evening is free and open to all to attend.  No registration is required.

Gloucester Timeline has been in the works for more than two years.  The online platform contains thousands of asset files spanning text, images, video, and audio exploring themes ranging across local life and culture of the indigenous Pawtuckets, English settlers, Gloucester’s center in trade and maritime history, immigration, women’s empowerment, LGBTQ+, and The Arts, tracing Gloucester’s history through culturally and historically significant people, places and events.  

Spearheaded by Sawyer Free Library with support from the Cape Ann Museum and Gloucester City Archives, the Gloucester Timeline was designed as a hub, connecting people to cultural organizations, archival repositories and historical collections where more information is available.  

During its “beta” phase of development, the Gloucester 400+ staff made extensive use of the Timeline in 2023 to illustrate and highlight significant events in the city’s history.  It was also supportive in assembling the Gloucester 400 Stories Project, the Gloucester 400+’s award-winning digital collection of personal stories, poems, and videos launched in late 2022 on the Gloucester 400+ website.  The collection is about Gloucester people by Gloucester people and is a powerful voice of ordinary and notable citizens.  

Now that the quadricentennial year is over, the Gloucester 400 Stories Project collection will be permanently housed in the 2025 Sawyer Free Library’s new Local History Research Center, which will be located on the first floor of the expanded and modernized library.  The SFL Foundation is spearheading a separate $700K fundraising effort to enhance the research center, enabling it to be an area for teaching and exhibitions that explore and leverage the 4,000-file Gloucester Timeline.