Burnett, Frank (1852 - 1930)


Scot - Canadian


Frank Burnett was the son of a sea captain (whaler). He moved to Liverpool at an early age to attend the Merchant Taylor's Grammar School, planning for a career in business, but at age 14 he chose to apprentice on a sailing vessel. During his time as a sailor he travelled as far as Egypt and South Africa. He immigrated to Montreal, Canada in 1870 or 1871. He tried his hand at various enterprises, married his first wife, Henrietta Cooke in 1878, moved across the country to Manitoba in 1880, and then to Vancouver c. 1895. He began making trips to the South Pacific in 1895. He was able to retire in 1901, at which time he outfitted a schooner, the Laurel, which he used to take another trip to the Pacific, collecting artifacts along the way. This 1902 trip is described in Burnett's first book "Through Tropic Seas" (1910). He also wrote "Through Polynesia and Papua" (1911), "Summer Isles of Eden" (1923) and "The Wreck of the Tropic Bird and Other Sea Stories" (1926). In 1912, and again in 1929, he made a small donation of objects to the City Museum (now the Vancouver Museum). From 1920-1927 he travelled in South America and British Columbia, where he also collected artifacts. In 1924 he married his second wife, Anne Cooke. On July 25, 1927 he donated most of his collection to the University of British Columbia, where it was initially housed in a room on the first floor of the library. It was installed by Frank and his daughter Nina. (The collection also included a group of Inuit objects collected by Ian M. Mackinnon during 3 years he spent in the Coppermine River area of the N.W.T.) By 1935, the "Burnett Collection" (as well as several other artifacts held by the University) had been recorded in a booklet titled "The University of British Columbia Catalogue of Ethnographic Specimens". The listed objects became the founding collection of the UBC Museum of Anthropology. In recognition of his generosity, the University bestowed on him an honourary Doctor of Laws degree in November, 1929.