'Remarkable find': Rare historical Shuswap scrapbooks and photos in new book | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source
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'Remarkable find': Rare historical Shuswap scrapbooks and photos in new book

"Home on the Range” Erskine Burnett's photo of two sheep herders on Queest Mountain, Shuswap.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/ Jim Cooperman

A long-time resident of the Shuswap stumbled upon on a rare piece of history and went into action to bring it to life.

Historian and author Jim Cooperman was working on a historical project when he searched the word Shuswap in the B.C. Regional Digitalized History database.

Cooperman said what appeared next “a remarkable find.”

“It peaked my curiosity because it is rare to find images in stories I haven’t already heard about because I’ve been involved in Shuswap history for years,” he said. “Then to find these photos was like whoa, this is quite something.”

Albums full of black and white photos of the Shuswap came up, and upon further investigation Cooperman found writings too, all by a man named Erskine Burnett, who spent decades exploring the vast outdoor spaces of the Shuswap in the mid-1900s.

Cooperman — passionate about sharing Burnett’s stories and love of the Shuswap — convinced area historians, museums and sponsors to help get Burnett’s scrapbooks published.

"If people are interested in where they live and learning more about it they’ll care about it more,” he said. “They’ll make sure it stays in better shape and appreciate it more, which is just where Burnett was coming from.”

Erskine Burnett.
Erskine Burnett.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/ Jim Cooperman

Each of the twelve chapters of the book is a new adventure, covering one of Burnett’s explorations in the area.

According to the foreword written by Mark Forsythe, Burnett was from Scotland and tended a fruit orchard in Coldstream where he and his wife raised a family, but it was the Shuswap he fell in love with.

“The Shuswap Country is his travelogue of observations, characters, anecdotes, puns, tall tales with a smattering of corny humour,” the foreword reads. “It’s also bursting with crisp, clear photographs snapped by the author, making this a priceless document of pioneers, community halls, “auto camps,” train stations, sawmills, main streets and pristine mountain meadows.”

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Cooperman edited the book and contributed an introduction including more history on Burnett and his life as an orchardist, writer and avid photographer.

“Burnett was a very funny guy,” he said. “A highlight is the story of his camping trip in the Monashees with the renowned Sugar Lake settler, Bill Fraser, when they boot skied down a mountainside and explored the alpine.”

Cooperman said there were so many photos taken between 1937 and 1950 he had to choose only the best ones for the book.

The oldest photo was of the Kamloops Museum opening at Riverside Park taken in the summer of 1937.

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The book was published late last summer by 55 Creative Group, was designed by Otto Pfannschid and is the product of a collaboration of museums in the Shuswap and Okanagan, sponsors, historians and members of Burnett’s family.

The Shuswap Country book by Erskine Burnett.
The Shuswap Country book by Erskine Burnett.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/ Jim Cooperman

The Shuswap Country is available at the museums and bookstores in Salmon Arm and in Kamloops at the Art We Are and at Chapters.

It is also available online here.

“To those accustomed to think of British Columbia as a country of rocky canyons and snow-clad peaks, the Shuswap Country comes as a pleasant surprise. Here is a land of wide river valleys and many-armed lakes, bordered by long forest-clad ridges. These ridges, in turn, are intersected by scores of smaller tributary rivers and creeks, and the summits of the higher ridges have been flattened out by glacial action to form grass-covered plateaus.” — Erskine Burnett


To contact a reporter for this story, email Shannon Ainslie or call 250-819-6089 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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