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Geo Trust

Peter Law fulfills his brother's dying wish

By Fiona Basile, 2011-04-20

Phillip Law (right) sits with brother Peter (left) at the top of Mt Loch in 1965.

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When Peter Law's older brother Dr Phillip Law died last year at 97 years of age, he was left with one very important task. In Phillip's Last Will and Testament, he'd asked that his 15,000-strong collection of personal slides be "preserved for posterity".

Peter and his younger sister Wendy are the only two surviving children of the Law family so Peter took it upon himself to fulfil his brother's last wishes.

Peter's brother, Dr Phillip Garth Law was the highly renowned and respected Australian scientist and explorer who served as director of the Australian National Antarctic Research Expeditions for 17 years.

Throughout his life, Phillip had donated many personal records and books, including photographs to the Australian Antarctic Division headquarters in Kingston Tasmania, the Royal Society of Australia and the National Library in Canberra.

When he died last year, he bequeathed a collection of almost 15,000 personal travel slides to the National Library in Canberra. Unfortunately the Library only wanted Phillip's work-related Antarctica photos.

Peter said, "When Phil died last year, I received a call from Helen Morgan who works in the area of science archives at Melbourne University. She had been very interested in Phillip's work and her group had published a guide to Phil's records, summarising his awards and honours. She offered to help us in any way she could."

"When the Library indicated it didn't want his personal collection of slides, it was Helen who suggested that we preserve them by having them digitally scanned."

"They were magnificent slides and document his travels over 60 years to places like Europe, South Africa, Asia, Israel, the USA and throughout Australia. It was important that I fulfilled my brother's wishes of preserving the images."

With the assistance of Helen, Peter enlisted the professional services of Remba Imaging. He said, "Helen called for tenders from about 5 or 6 firms and most of them said the job was too big for them. She found Jason very easy to work with and very obliging and they were able to do the job in less than a month."

"I was expecting to get boxes and boxes of DVDs but instead I received this tiny little thing, not much bigger than a cigar box, which clicked into the computer, and the thousands of slides were on there. It was really amazing."

Peter has skimmed though most of the images and is thrilled with the outcome.

He said, "There was one photograph in particular that brought back a lot of good memories for me."

The photograph was taken in 1965 and shows Peter and Phillip Law at Mount Loch, which "is about a two-hour trudge through the snow on skis from Mount Hotham", according to Peter.

"During the 1960s, Phil and I would often go on skiing trips during September. We'd stay in this small two-man hut at Mount Hotham and do day trips from there.

"On this particular day I also had my huge 8mm film camera, and I actually filmed Phillip setting up the shot. I've still got the footage and was watching it just the other day. The footage shows Phillip pulling the camera out of his small day pack, resting the camera in position, setting the self timer and running back to get into position next to me. And that's when the film stops of course."

"When I saw that photo, I rang Jason straight away to thank him. It's an excellent picture. In fact, they're all excellent. Most importantly though, I'm pleased that I've fulfilled my brother's wish in having his personal collection of slides preserved for posterity."

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