SKIP MCKINNELL FOUND THE SLIM books in a Vancouver basement: stacks of field notes coated with salmon scales still stuck to the 100-year-old fiber with slime. Then affiliated with Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans, McKinnell had read about the notebooks, which allegedly contained extensive data about and samples from British Columbia’s salmon population from the first decades of the 20th century. But even after scouring collections from British Columbia all the way to Washington D.C.’s Smithsonian Institute, McKinnell found the wrinkled pages elusive. That changed one day in 1996, when, at a colleagues’ suggestion, McKinnell searched the Pacific Salmon Commission’s Vancouver basement. There the notebooks were, overlooked but intact. When the notebooks were opened, papery fish scales sloughed off their brittle lined pages and fluttered like moth wings to the ground.
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