Ridicule and research support: Library Twitter strikes back!

Library and research branches of Twitter were outraged recently when two American Law students published a paper in the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy relating to abortion rights. The anger centred around the hypothesis that because the students didn’t find any historical literature relating to the term ‘abortion’ in their searches, that abortions simply didn’t exist in American history.

Tweet from Jacqueline Antonovich which reads: Fun story: These two law students published a paper about how they typed in the word "abortion" in a primary source database, didn't find much, and therefore conclude that "Founding Era Americans" didn't really know what abortions were and it was synonymous with miscarriage.

The thread of tweets goes on to explain that the furore surrounding this published paper is not that there was an investigation into historical abortions (which is topical worldwide since the recent overturn of the US Roe V Wade case), but that the flawed methodology was passed through teams of reviewers and editors and allowed to be published. Jacqueline Antonovich goes on to cite an article by Dr Lauren MacIvor Thompson published in the New York Times in 2019 entitled ‘Women have always had abortions’. (This article is behind a paywall but staff and students at the University of Edinburgh can read it in full using some of the news databases that the Library subscribes to.)

Aside from there being an entire school of academic research dedicated to the history of birth control rights, you may be wondering ‘what did those students actually do wrong?’ Dr Gillian Frank (@1gillianfrank1) provides some guidance in his tweets:

Fun fact: Just because you don’t find evidence in one database when you type in the word “abortion,” doesn’t mean a practice didn’t exist. Better historical questions are: Am I using the right keywords? Under what conditions could matters relating to abortion be spoken about?

Ronit Stahl (@ronitstahl) agreed:

And from there, ask questions like *Who* would be talking about this? Who would *write* about this? What *kinds* of documents/sources might include mention of this? *Where* might we find those sources? *How* do we think about/interpret silences?

More information about how to critically assess a search like this can be found by reading through Dr Frank’s twitter thread. Twitter can be an excellent tool for sharing resources and promoting discussion. This example is not only relevant because of the current news cycle but also because awareness of the importance of interrogating research methodologies rigorously is crucial if you are to publish well respected pieces of research.

Consider the bias in all your sources.

  • What power structures led to this work being published?
  • Who is speaking and why is their viewpoint important?
  • Who is missing from the conversation?
  • If there is a solitary viewpoint, why is this one in focus?

Librarians talk about bias quite often when discussing critical information skills with students and staff, because we want to be sure that the inferences you make from your source material are sound and fully considered. The Academic Support Librarian team have recently been working with one of our student interns to produce an online resource to help students to expand their searches and diversify their reading, due to be published this summer. We’ve also been crafting a toolbox to help our academic staff colleagues start conversations about including a wider range of resources in their core reading lists. Watch out for more news of both of these going live on the ASL blog.

In the mean time, if you’re struggling with your research and would like some advice on more robust search methodologies, you can contact the Law Librarians by email: law.librarian@ed.ac.uk, or any of our colleagues from the ASL team using the contact information on the ASL by subject area page. Although classes and exams are finished, we are around all summer so please contact us to make an appointment!

Posted in Databases, Information Skills, Journals, Online sources, Postgraduate, Research, Resources, Undergraduate | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Ridicule and research support: Library Twitter strikes back!

Conservator Claire turns to the dark side (but it all ends well).

I am now in my final week of the Lyell Project; time has flown by as myself and our exceptional interns have breezed through the plethora of material in this collection. Once they had finished their internships, my work turned to focus on some of the most challenging conservation work … the printed books!

Held within both the Lyell new accession and the University’s own collections, 22 printed volumes and a handful of special collection volumes were identified as being in need of interventive treatment. Several of the printed volumes had significant structural damage to their boards and spines. It was clear that through use, the tension the volume had undergone – that is the opening and closing – had led to this damage. I had to be careful that whatever method I chose to rectify this would be sympathetic to the remaining structure, and that new materials would need to be carefully introduced to support the volume structurally. All 22 volumes were at different stages of degradation; they all needed some form of structural repair to mitigate this damage. It was a similar picture with the special collection volumes, which were alike in binding style. This blog focuses on the worst of those bunch.

A small handful of the volumes were in the condition that you see Figure 1 below. Spines and boards were detached or even missing altogether. What was left, was falling apart, and the leather had little integrity.

Special Collections volume before treatment

Special Collection Volume before treatment (SC6373)

Figure 2- Diagram demonstrating the layers of the Honey Hollow technique

After some thought and research, I decided to use the ‘Honey Hollow’ technique to restore the structure of the volumes, which introduces new materials including a cast of the spine that acts as the new structure. The original spine is then attached to it, but no longer takes on any structural responsibility. This was the most feasible choice, as the condition and strength of the leather that was remaining was too poor. An illustration of the Honey Hollow technique can be seen in figure 2:

 

All book conservation work started with surface cleaning, consolidation of red rot and any corner repairs. Normally the first step is to lift the original spine piece from the volume. As this had already detached this was not needed. Once they had been safely stored, the casting could begin. The book was placed in a finishing press, and cling film was tightly wrapped around the spine to act as a barrier from any moisture whilst casting the spine. Pieces of 12gsm Japanese tissue were cut and attached layer by layer onto the exposed spine using wheat starch paste. Dependent on the width of the book, between 7-10 layers of tissue were required to make a strong cast.

Figure 3 – Casting of the spine using Japanese Tissue and wheat starch paste

Once the cast had dried, it was removed and trimmed. The book remained in the finishing press whilst the leather on the boards was carefully lifted using a leaf spatula. This is where the new Aerolinen fabric would be inserted. This fabric is commonly used in book conservation for both board reattachment and spine repairs. As it needed to wrap around the entire spine, a piece of the linen was pasted to the cast with a 1cm margin either side for insertion into the boards. The attachment to the spine needed to be strong, so EVA was the adhesive used for this part of the process.

Figure 4 – Left: Lifting of the board leather, Right: New Aerolinen cast

Aerolinen can be toned to make the original spine piece in other applications, however in this case it is best to cover the linen with a toned Japanese tissue of a heavier weight. A medium tone was chosen that could match the darker parts of the leather, rather than the lighter areas where it had degraded. Once attached and trimmed, it was now time to attach the original spine cover to the cast (making sure it was the right way up!).

Figure 5 – Toned Japanese Tissue cover of the cast

As often only two thirds of the original spine cover was left, some more acrylic painting had to be done to mask the toned paper. The degradation of the leather was much worse on the spine piece, so the toned Japanese tissue did not match it as well as the sides. After a little bit of painting, the overall look of the new cast was more in keeping with the original spine. All that was left to do was to repair any inner joints inside the book at the start and end of the volume with a light Japanese tissue.

Figure 6 – Special Collection Volume after treatment

The technique overall was a success; this volume and others like it are now safe to handle, and the repairs blend in with the original condition of the rest of the book. It was a really interesting technique to employ and, more importantly, a satisfying one.  This was a great experience for me to put both my ethical and technical skills to work to protect the volumes and retain what was left of the binding.

Claire

 

 

 

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New blog from the Digitisation Service

Project Photographer John Sikorski attends to the process of setting a Lyell Notebook into the digitisation camera.

Its taking teams of multi-skilled people to open up the Charles Lyell collection! Read all about the Cultural Heritage Digitisation Service Team’s efforts to digitise the Notebooks on their latest blog here:

From Castles to Cradle: Photographing the Lyell Notebooks | Digital Imaging Unit (ed.ac.uk)

Its a long road ahead, but already 87 of the Notebooks are now completed and online. The images are being added to the University of Edinburgh’s Image website, LUNA, and you can find them here:

Search Results: All Fields similar to ‘Coll-203’ and Who equal to ‘Lyell, Charles (Sir)’ – University of Edinburgh

Thanks to all the CHDS staff – keep going!

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LILAC 2022: Being Better Teachers

In our third and final post about the LILAC conference (you can find part one here and part two here) I wanted to touch on the topic of becoming better teachers. Although there was so much to take in from the conference – as you’ll have read from Ruth and Christine’s posts – one of the most impactful things I learned from the sessions was that the work we do is so important and impactful on our students, and it’s in all of our best interests that we consider that we have a powerful role to play in teaching.

The session I attended on the topic of Students, academic reading and information literacy in a time of COVID really reminded me that there can be a marked difference in the information we think our students want, and what they actually want. The panellists explored the results of the Academic Reading Format Information Study (D Mizrachi, 2021) which shows that over 70% of students prefer to use print books for academic study, with only 8.7% preferring ebooks. A later examination of student trends during the pandemic showed that 73% of students who responded in the US would not complete all their prescribed readings for their course due to their availability online. These results surprised and somewhat concerned us, particularly as many institutions operate on an e-first policy for library acquisitions now. If students don’t want ebooks, are we doing them a disservice by putting such emphasis on online access? Do we need to communicate and provide better training in order to help make these resources more accessible? Ultimately these questions could be answered by working more directly with students and not making assumptions about what information needs they have.

There were also inspiring sessions to encourage us to continue to develop as professionals ourselves, because by allowing ourselves time to write and research and read more about developments in our profession, we not only share the student experience with those we teach but we also develop better praxis for ourselves. All three of our academic support librarian delegates attended the Getting Your Writing Groove Back workshop run by the Journal of Information Literacy representatives, and I think all of us found it both fun and instructive. As a result we’ve already restarted the L&UC Journal Club, and look forward to building research and writing further into our current workplace activities in the future.

Slide from Getting Your Writing Groove Back presentation. Slide is entitled 'Myths about writing' with a picture of a stuffed unicorn on the left. Full slide content is available via the LILAC Conference website.

Slide from Getting Your Writing Groove Back presentation, by the team from the Journal of Information Literacy.

My final thought on becoming better teachers as librarians is that we need to seek out recognition of the work we’re already doing. The fact is that many library workers don’t consider themselves teachers, but by attending this conference I was able to hear many people from around the country talk about the impact their work has, and it reminded me that we’re already doing lots of this. Whether it’s creating subject guides or video demonstrations of resources, writing web content or blogs to help highlight useful databases, or directly providing instruction in front of hundreds of students, we are teachers too.

Ruth already spoke about the inspiring words of Marilyn Clarke and Emily Drabinski, but I must return to their keynotes as they both drove home the point for me. Libraries are important and library workers have influence. We must be intentional in the work we do. We have the power to affect great change in the lives of our students and our institutions, whether it’s including a range of examples in our work to help our students feel like they belong in their classes, or challenging them to find a wider variety of voices beyond their prescribed reading. We are supporting their learning and we need to recognise the power we have in order to use it to be the best teachers we can be.

SarahLouise McDonald
Academic Support Librarian

sarahlouise.mcdonald@ed.ac.uk

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From Castles to Cradle: Photographing the Lyell Notebooks

I was delighted to take on the challenge of helping photograph the University’s collection of notebooks of geologist Sir Charles Lyell, and there’s a bit more to photographing 300 notebooks than one might imagine. The Cultural Heritage Digitisation Service is a fantastic team of people, and quickly welcomed me onboard. Prior to this posting, I’ve enjoyed a varied background, including photographing the contents of National Trust for Scotland castles as part of a major digitisation project Reveal, plus Polar and Northern Lights photography aboard expedition cruise ships.

Read More

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Database trial for Chinese and Japanese ancient books

Some of us may have already used Diaolong Complete Si Ku Series (in Databases A-Z) that we have subscribed to for the last few years. This resource is part of a larger database which also contains many more pre-1911 Chinese books as well as several thousand volumes of Japanese books. The database is called Diaolong Full-text Database of Chinese & Japanese Ancient Books — 雕龍中日古籍全文資料庫.

The University Library has now set up a trial of this whole database. The trial will be added to the E-resources Trials website: http://edin.ac/e-resources-trials very soon. Meanwhile, you can access the trial directly at the following website on the University network or via VPN while off campus:

The trial will end on 31 August 2022, with a possible subscription depending on feedback and library budget.

Diaolong Full-text Database of Chinese & Japanese Ancient Books contains about 30,000 ancient books which cover a wide range of subjects including history, religion, philosophy, literature, politics, economics, medicine and local gazetteers. The page display can be in scanned images, in transcribed texts, or in both side by side. The huge number of books are sourced from 21  large series titles which can be searched or browsed. These 21 series are:

  1. Daozang (道藏, 1513 book titles / 5878 vols)
  2. Daozang jiyao (道藏辑要, 299 / 2553)
  3. Sibu congkan (四部叢刊, 472 / 13685)
  4. Xu Sibu congkan (續四部叢刊, 364 / 15328)
  5. Yongle dadian (永樂大典, 813 / 813)
  6. Gujin Tushu Jicheng (古今圖書集成, 33 / 10012)
  7. Dunhuang shiliao(敦煌史料,2952 / 2955)
  8. Qingdai shiliao (清代史料, 113 / 10832)
  9. Zhongguo difangzhi (中國地方誌, 2137 / 52022)
  10. Zhongguo difangzhi xuji (中國地方誌續集,1939 / 37477)
  11. Zhongguo difangzhi sanji (中國地方誌三集,2090 / 18309)
  12. Riben gudian shujiku (日本古典書籍庫, 618 / 7400)
  13. Siku quanshu (四庫全書, 3541 / 92074)
  14. Xuxiu Siku quanshu (續修四庫全書, 5550 / 104703)
  15. Siku cunmu (四庫存目,4350 / 65551)
  16. Siku wei shou shu (四庫未收書,167 / 2479)
  17. Siku jin hui shu (四庫禁毀書,620 / 13342)
  18. Liufu wencang (六府文藏, 7717 / 149576)
  19. Zhongguo minjian wenxue (中國民間文學,203 / 538)
  20. Qingdai keju zhujuan (清代科舉硃卷, 1071 / 7792)
  21. Yi jia ku (醫家庫,1033 / 9362)

Feedback would be much appreciated.

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Lyell staff update the Murray family donors

It was a great pleasure for some of the Lyell project staff to welcome the Murray family to the Library, and to show them how their generous support is allowing the archive to be conserved, digitised and curated. The repairs and bespoke rehousing of the notebooks were found to be particularly interesting.

John, Claire, Pamela, Susan, David and colleagues look forward to updating the rest of our supporters as well as welcoming further donors to Edinburgh in the months ahead.

Some of the Lyell project staff  post with John and Ginny Murray when they met at the University's Main Library

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DataShare awarded CoreTrustSeal trustworthy repository status

CoreTrustSeal has recognised Edinburgh DataShare as a trustworthy repository.

What does this mean for our depositors? It means you can rest assured that we look after your data very carefully, in line with stringent internationally-recognised standards. We have significant resources in place to ensure your dataset remains available to the academic community and the general public at all times. We also have digital preservation expertise and well-planned processes in place, to protect your data from long-term threats. The integrity and reusability of your data are a priority for the Research Data Service.

Book to attend our practical “Archiving your Research Data” course

The certification involves an in-depth evaluation of the resilience of the repository, looking at procedures, infrastructure, staffing, discoverability, digital preservation, metadata standards and disaster recovery. This rigorous process took the team over a year to complete, and prompted a good deal of reflection on the robustness of our repository. We compiled responses to sixteen requirements, a task which I co-ordinated. The finished application contained over ten thousand words, and included important contributions from colleagues in the Digital Library team and from the university Digital Archivist Sara Thomson.

Our CoreTrustSeal application in full   

The CTS is a prestigious accreditation, held by many national organisations such as the National Library of Scotland, the UK’s Centre for Environmental Data Analysis and UniProt. Ours is the first institutional research data repository in the UK to receive the CoreTrustSeal (the Cambridge Crystallographic Data Centre has the CTS but, in contrast to DataShare, is a disciplinary repository which archives data from the international research community).

DataShare is a trustworthy repository, where you as a researcher (staff or student) at the University of Edinburgh can archive your research data free of charge. Bring us your dataset – up to 100 GB(!) – and we will look after it well, to maximise its discoverability and its potential for reuse, both in the immediate term and long beyond the lifetime of your research project.

Edinburgh DataShare

All CTS certified repositories

circular logo bearing a tick mark and the words 'Core Trust Seal'

The Research Data Support team has earned the right to display this CTS logo on the DataShare homepage

Pauline Ward
Research Data Support Assistant
Library & University Collections

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Lulu: the most dangerous dog in Birmingham

The purpose of a headline is to draw a reader into the story written below. The dog of death roams a city for five hours”, is a headline that surely makes a person want to read more. It conjures up images of a dog shaped manifestation of the Grim Reaper roaming the streets to claim passing souls, or an atomic age puppy causing havoc on buildings and city infrastructure.

An arrangement of five newspaper cuttings relating to Lulu the dog

An assortment of newspaper headlines relating to Lulu the dog, 1961

The above headline was published by the Daily Mail in January 1961. Other papers at the time had similar headlines referring to Killer Lulu and the germ-carrying terrier. But what is the story behind these headlines and why is there a collection of these newspaper cuttings in the archive of the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies?

During the Christmas break 1960-1961, Mr Barry Leek, an assistant in veterinary physiology at the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, was visiting Birmingham with his family. Whilst he was driving through town he was involved in an unfortunate incident when a lorry backed into his car. In the ensuing panic his dog Lulu jumped out the car and ran away. Mr Leek quickly informed the police of the missing dog and stressed that she must be found as quickly as possible since she had been injected with the salmonella “duck egg” virus!

A dog, which could supposedly kill a man with a single pat*, was on the loose in Birmingham city centre, and this caused a massive emergency service response. All police officers were informed of the situation, “find this dog…it’s dangerous”. Police cars with speakers patrolled the streets warning people to stay away from Lulu. If anyone had come into contact with her, they were to visit their doctor immediately! The police also visited schools to warn children not to approach the dog and pictures of Lulu were quickly sourced to be shown on the news later that day.

After five hours, Lulu was found in an alley not far from where she was last seen. Relief all round. The city was saved. Though the question remained, how much of a danger was Lulu to society?

Newspaper photograph of Lulu the dog. The caption reads "Lulu...her poison injection brought panic to the city. From the Scottish Daily Express, January 3 1961

A photograph of Lulu the dog, from the Scottish Daily Express, Tuesday January 3 1961

The University of Edinburgh denied that Lulu could have been injected with salmonella. Mr Charles H. Steward, Edinburgh University’s secretary at the time stated, “We have investigated the matter, and we are convinced that the dog is not used for experimental purposes, and that there was NO danger to anyone.” The R(D)SVS principal, Professor Alexander Robertson, agreed by saying no experimentations were carried out on dogs at the veterinary college and even added, “it is not a very serious disease – in fact, I am surprised there had been so much fuss made.” Mr Leek later admitted that no such injection was given to Lulu and she was suffering a case of naturally occurring food poisoning at the time. He was more worried about Lulu’s reaction to children having not been socialised with them and feared Lulu might pass on salmonella to them.

The result of such a major reaction to a dog with a tummy bug lead to protests in Birmingham for different reasons. One being a reaction to why such a dangerous dog was allowed to go through the city without adequate preparation was allowed. The other protests were concerned with dogs being kept for experimental purposes by the University.

These newspaper cuttings can be found in one folder of many in the archive of the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, which is currently being catalogued as part of the One Health project. There are plenty of stories emerging from the pages and they will be shared here.

 

*even I’m getting swept up in the sensationalism

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Hello from Pamela, new Strategic Projects Archivist

Strategic Projects Archivist, Pamela McIntyre started in mid January, and will be leading on the Charles Lyell Project. Pamela introduces herself, and shares her insight on the internationally significant Sir Charles Lyell archive.   

Hello! After training in a number of repositories across the UK I qualified as an Archivist from Liverpool University in 1995. My first professional post was a SHEFC-funded project to catalogue, preserve and promote the archives of Heriot-Watt University, and its then associated colleges – Edinburgh College of Art, Moray House and the Scottish College of Textiles. Since then, I’ve worked with local authority, private and business archives, and with fine art and museum collections. I have always really enjoyed the practical elements of archive work, and getting people involved, and consequently, I’ve diversified, working in the third sector with volunteers. My last post was Project Development Officer, Libraries. Museums & Galleries for South Ayrshire Council – some highlights of my time there include breaking the ‘Festival of Museums’ with a ‘Day o’ the Dames’ event (sorry, Museum Galleries Scotland!), hosting an amazing exhibition about the history of tattoos, and spending two days at Troon, Prestwick, Maidens and Girvan beaches in support of COP26. I’m thrilled to join Edinburgh University, getting back to my archival roots – and it’s safe to say, Charles Lyell and I are getting on great!

I’m so impressed with the work that’s been done so far. I want to thank the previous staff for all of their efforts.

I am new to Geology, and one of the ways I get to know collections is by searching for subjects I do know about – using family names or places I know. Lyell travelled extensively, and whilst this may well influence my forthcoming holiday plans – it was particularly reassuring to find and read about his trip to the Isle of Arran – a place I love.

From Hutton’s visit in 1787, many geologists have visited Arran. Robert Jameson published his account in 1798, followed by John Macculloch in 1819. Geologists from overseas also visited, and Lyell had studied von Dechen and Oeynhansen’s accounts of 1829. As Leonard Wilson notes in his book Charles Lyell: the Years to 1841:

With its granite mountains and numerous dikes of traprock intersecting and altering stratified sedimentary rocks, Arran was a veritable laboratory for Lyell’s study of hypogene rocks and for the confirmation of his metamorphic theory.

Charles and Mary Lyell stayed at Arran for the first two weeks of August 1836, a trip chronicled by Lyell in Notebooks 62 and 63. Notebook 62 is digitised, and available on the University of Edinburgh’s LUNA image website. From page 60, Lyell noted their plans – arriving in Glasgow, a meeting with Hooker, and stop offs at both the Hunterian and the Andersonian – then plans his trip around the island.

Notebook No.62 p.60 plans for travel round the island of Arran

He then began an analysis of the geology of the island, posing questions, and offering amazing drawings.The pages of the notebooks are packed with details, almost at a breath-taking pace.

Notebook No.62 p.62

 

Notebook No.62 p.63

Lyell immediately made connections with what he saw in Arran with Forfarshire, Fife and Antrim, whilst taking the details of experts and mineral sellers resident in Glasgow, and making another simple line drawing showing the skyline of Goatfell.

By page 66 he is making significant notes entitled ‘Elements’, culminating in what appears to be the proposed structure of chapters for his book.

Wilson adds to the context of that trip; Mary met Lyon Playfair on the boat across – Andrew Ramsey later joined the party. Playfair accompanied Mary on the beach collecting shells, whilst Ramsey and Lyell geologised. At the end of their trip to Arran, the Lyells returned to Kinnordy until the 28th September. Wilson notes:

It was a long rest and summer vacation – a complete break from London, foreign travel and scientific meetings. During the preceding four years Lyell had worked through three editions of the Principles, three tours on the continent, one long trip through Sweden, and all the duties and demands of the foreign secretaryship and presidency of the Geological Society. Mary had acted in part as his secretary and assistant. She wrote many of his letters, helped to catalogue shells, and protected him from visitors. She had accompanied him on his excursions on the continent often under extremely primitive conditions; she had been abandoned in hotel rooms while Charles was off geologizing; she was often lonely. The vacation was for her too a chance to revitalise. When they arrived back at 16 Hart Street Lyell wrote to his father “Everyone is quite struck with the improvement in Mary’s health & appearance’.

I know Mary Horner Lyell as the daughter of Leonard Horner, who by setting up the Edinburgh School of Art in 1821 laid the foundations for Heriot-Watt College. It’s a small world. I am looking forward to being reacquainted with Mary, whose intelligent support to her husband is evidenced in the Lyell Collection by copious correspondence from when they first met.

Mary Elizabeth (née Horner), Lady Lyell
by Horatio Nelson King
albumen carte-de-visite, 1860s
NPG x46569
© National Portrait Gallery, London

I have not come across any mention of Ailsa Craig! However, I have found a reference to Kilmarnock, a topic for a future blog! Familiarisation – to some extent – achieved, it’s now time to decide priorities, to create projects, to engage with people, and to continue the aims of opening up the Lyell collection to all.

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