History professor Ron Harpelle and filmmaker Kelly Saxberg worked on a film project dealing with Sheila Burnford’s book, One Woman’s Arctic. Her book, The Incredible Journey, became a Disney film and later was re-made as Homeward Bound. What many people do not know is that Sheila wrote six books and many articles along with Thunder Bay artist Susan Ross. She also travelled to many remote communities in Ontario and all the way up to Pond Inlet, Nunavut. The researchers tracked down her daughters and discovered that Sheila’s personal papers were in need of a permanent home. Sheila died in 1984 and left behind a treasure trove of letters, photos, films, diaries, manuscripts and other personal items which are all being scanned, catalogued and preserved for history.
The Thunder Bay Public Library became the obvious choice as a location to eventually house the collection because Sheila raised her family in Thunder Bay and because so much of her work focused on Northern Ontario. The Incredible Journey was set in the Thunder Bay region and Sheila also published The Fields of Noon and Without Reserve which are about her experiences in the region. The Library is an excited partner for this important work and will eventually house the collection and make it accessible to researchers both locally and around the world in a Sheila Burnford Special Collection.