We have a changing programme of exhibitions often accompanied by lectures and tours. We also host meetings and events where the displays of material from the collections provide an inspirational and attractive environment.
Please note that in the listings below, the thumbnails of the exhibition posters link through to large versions in PDF format, where available. Some of these files are very large, though none are more than 5 Mb.
|Monday - Friday||10.00 - 16.00|
|Thursday||10.00 - 19.00 (term time only)|
|Saturday||12.00 - 16.00 (term time only)|
The exhibitions are free and open to all.
15th April - 30th August 2013MMU Special Collections Gallery,
This exhibition brings together work made by Amanda Ravetz and Antonia Riviere during a two-month research fellowship at the National Film and Sound Archive in Australia in 2012. As sisters, Ravetz and Riviere worked together, sharing their skills in art and anthropology. Their focus was on clothes rationing during World War Two and in this exhibition they explore how Britain and Australia reacted to clothing shortages during the war and how limitations and loss affect individual makers.
Make do and Mend was the name of the government austerity campaign launched in Britain during World War 2. It encouraged people to conserve materials to support the war effort. Several examples of garments and mending materials from wartime Britain appear in this exhibition. Wartime rationing in Britain is well documented, but less is known about the Australian situation. A newsreel shows John Dedman, Minister for War Organisation of Industry modelling his newly designed Victory Suit. This and other films give an insight into Australia's programme of rationing. The exhibition also includes contemporary video and textiles by Ravetz and Riviere.
Amanda Ravetz studied Fine Art at the Central School of Art and Design and Social Anthropology with Visual Media at the University of Manchester. She is a Senior Research Fellow at MIRIAD, the research institute of the Manchester School of Art, MMU. Her work explores experiences of improvisation and reverie in makers' processes.
Antonia Riviere studied ceramics and textiles at Farnham (WSCAD) in the 1970s and completed a counselling MA at the University of East Anglia in 2006. These practices come together in her current pieces which explore the attachments and memories present in worn out clothing and domestic textiles.
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28th January - 22nd March 2013MMU Special Collections Gallery,
The exhibition features a beautiful selection of glassware, ceramics, metalware, posters and books, and includes the work of artists and designers whose names are famously associated with the Art Nouveau style, such as Archibald Knox, Jessie M King and Aubrey Beardsley. Also on display are some of the most influential journals of the time, including Jugend, The Studio, and The Yellow Book.
The notion that stylistic developments in art and design progress along linear trajectories, swinging from new idea to counter idea like some sort of dialectal pendulum is not accurate, but is very pervasive and persuasive. This is nowhere more evident than in the various attempted definitions and descriptions of Art Nouveau.
No one thing really defines the movement, except perhaps the dates within which it flourished, from the 1880’s to 1914, when it was curtailed by the onset of the First World War. Even the stylistic vocabulary that the movement is perhaps most known for, the sinuous curve, is not common in all it’s expressions. It is probably best summed up in the term Fin de Siecle, which although literally meaning the turn of the century, has within it a sense of the ending of an era, a culmination of the 19th century in style and ideology, that will evolve into something new and vigorous; but there is also a sense of Bohemianism and decadence leading to degeneration and even decay.
Within the visual arts, the style is marked by the giants of design history, such as Hector Guimard, Victor Horta and Charles Rennie Mackintosh, with their distinctive, but exclusive designs; but equally entrepreneurs such as Arthur Liberty and Samuel Bing, who recognising the commercial potential of a style that could be available to more than an elite would popularise the movement through their famous establishments (Bing’s Maison de l'Art Nouveau in Paris and Liberty & Co., London). In time the style became ubiquitous and fell out of fashion, and it‘s designers anonymous jobbing commercial artists. However the associations with youth, and with decadent Bohemianism would remain, ensuring future generations would either reject it wholesale, or embrace it and re-use it, even today where it has become a visual short-hand for affordable luxury.
The period in which Art Nouveau flourished is also known as the golden age of illustration. This was not only because with the new style came new perceived freedoms in artistic expression, but developments in mass production of print opened up the possibililty of cheap, quality reproductions which in turn created a vast new audience with a huge appetite for the graphic arts.
This exhibition does not represent a comprehensive overview of Art Nouveau; it only offers a small glimpse into a movement that defined a period.
17th September - 14th December 2012MMU Special Collections Gallery,
The exhibition features a selection of work from two recent projects Shoreline, which contains prints of the coastline of Britain, and Watershed, images and constructions made from a study of the Pennine watershed overlooking Manchester. Their shared theme is how the landscape is changed by weather, seasons, flora and fauna, and by human intervention, agriculture and occupation; past and present.
Anthony's work is informed by a familiarity with the landscape that comes from a long standing love of climbing, fell-running and sailing. His fascination with recording the landscape stems from using maps and guidebooks for fell running and climbing which in turn led to an interest in the historical documentation of journeys and exploration.
Alongside his own collection of maps, guidebooks and early climbing guides, which are illustrated with artists' drawings and topographical maps, he has selected work from our own book collections that show historical and contemporary representations of the landscape.
Anthony Ratcliffe has exhibited widely in the UK and his prints can be found in many public and private collections in this country and abroad including The British Council and Houses of Parliament. He is currently Senior Lecturer and Programme Leader for Foundation Course in Art and Design at MMU where he originally started employment as a technical printmaking assistant.
19th June 2012 - 24th August 2012MMU Special Collections Gallery,
One of the pleasures of browsing in libraries and second hand book shops is happening on a book that you had forgotten, but was once a great favourite. This is particularly true of those characters from children's books, whose depiction in an illustration remains with us as much as any portrayal in word. A chance encounter with such a seemingly forgotten illustration can be a highly evocative experience.
In this exhibition we have recovered some of those characters. They may not be long-standing or current favourites, but they were well loved and established in their time and have recurred in more than one story. We have also included some recent favourites.
This exhibition features just a small part of the 10,000 books that make up Manchester Metropolitan University Special Collections' Children's Book Collection, as well as showing original artwork from the archive of the artist and illustrator Leslie Wood (1920-1994) who was a student of the Manchester School of Art (1938-1944) and the illustrator of the popular Little Red Engine series of children's books.
12th April 2012 - 2nd June 2012MMU Special Collections Gallery,
In the sixties a "new wave" of British science fiction emerged that embraced the most progressive forces in culture at the time. This included the latest visual art that eschewed traditional genre boundaries. This exhibition considers this process through the pages of New Worlds, bible of the "new wave". In 1967 the magazine began to run half-tone reproduction and colour covers, encouraging a lively and complex relationship between art and literature. Writers at such as J.G. Ballard and Michael Moorcock, took inspiration from contemporary artists, including Richard Hamilton and Andy Warhol. By far the most influential was Eduardo Paolozzi (1924-2005) who was listed as "aeronautics advisor" in the magazine between 1967-69.
A sculptor, designer and print-maker, Paolozzi was admired as a tireless champion of popular culture and respected as the embodiment of a "new sensibility" in art. He produced ground-breaking graphics that reflect an interest in text, while alluding to the emergence of new cybernetic technologies. The centrepiece of the exhibition is the edition, "Moonstrips Empire News" (1967) which will be shown alongside items from Paolozzi's collection of space toys that reflect the importance of science and technology in his art. A display of rare scrapbooks by the artist offers evidence of the incursion into popular culture, and of the new "invisible" technologies in the form of adverts and editorial pieces from magazines.
This exhibition was curated by David Brittain, Research Fellow and Senior Lecturer Photography at MMU. This exhibition will be shown in an expanded version at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in 2013 and a publication is due from Savoy Books. The exhibition has been supported by the Paolozzi Foundation and the Manchester Institute for Research and Innovation in Art and Design (MIRIAD) at MMU.
16th January 2012 - 23rd March 2012MMU Special Collections Gallery,
This exhibition celebrates the very generous donation by the Society of Wood Engravers (SWE) of their archive to the Manchester Metropolitan University Special Collections. The archive includes material from the Society's foundation in 1920 and traces its development up to the present day.
The exhibition includes material from the SWE archive along with examples of some of the finest 20th century wood engraving from our book collections and unique material from some of the artists’ archives. In addition to showing the work of current members each has nominated a past member, who they regard as having been a particular inspiration to them; either through their work or more personally. The contemporary print has been displayed alongside a print by this 'sage'.
In depositing their archive with MMU Special Collections the SWE have ensured its long term preservation, as well as making this fascinating material available to those interested in the SWE illustrious past and its exciting future. They have also placed the archive alongside exceptional collections of books related to wood engraving and with the private papers of a number of artists who are recognised as being amongst the leading engravers of the 20th century.
By displaying the work of some of today's members alongside that of some of the key figures from the history of the SWE we hope to highlight both the continuities and also the developments in the art of wood engraving in this country through the 20th century and beyond and also to echo the words of Eric Gill in suggesting that this is still "a time of experiment".
15th August 2011 - 16th December 2011MMU Special Collections Gallery,
This exhibition features a new body of work that is the culmination of a series of partnerships with makers working across a variety of media and has been influenced by the use of writing as a way of advancing the creative process. This has allowed Kirsteen to explore and combine processes such as using blown and cast glass in innovative ways, bringing together lamp-working, spot welding and digital technology.
The exhibition also acknowledges the use and importance of narrative, specifically creative writing, in her making process, so that the writing becomes as much a part of the finished product as the images and objects to which it relates. Alongside this is an examination of the studio process and the material exploration that informed the work. Through this, the creative journey is highlighted, demonstrating how text, imagery, process and material investigation are interwoven, each informing a response to the next: an ebb and flow of idea and form.
Kirsteen's work is complemented by contemporary glass pieces from MMU Special Collections, all recent acquisitions, and all selected to exemplify new directions in making and theory, and includes work by Catherine Carr, Vanessa Cutler, Catherine Forsyth, Zoe Garner and James Maskrey. Also on display is a selection of prints, books and decorated papers from the Japanese material held in the collections, much of which was used to inform her new work.
26th April 2011 - 15th July 2011
Bright Young Things is an exhibition of lighting designs, made by Year 10 students of Parrs Wood High School, Manchester, alongside the artworks and books from MMU Special Collections which inspired them.
Award winning designer and MMU alumni Claire Norcross worked with the collections to develop and pilot an design based learning programme within the GCSE Design and Technology curriculum, with a local school, Parrs Wood High School.
This show is the culmination of that project which used the collections as inspiration for the creation of a domestic light, to be designed by each student for a specific task and space; to solve a problem identified by each student.
MMU Special Collections was awarded funding by the Victoria & Albert Museum to run the project under the Design For Life scheme.
Design For Life is a national initiative which seeks to develop new ways of engaging young people in design, enabling them to work alongside professional designers and gain inspiration from museum collections. It aims to identify ways in which museums can support young people in developing their talents and becoming active in the creative economy as adults.
Led by the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Design For Life partnership includes 15 regional museums. MMU Special Collections has also been supported by Manchester Art Gallery. Design For Life is part of the strategic commissioning programme for museum and gallery education funded by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, the Department for Education and also by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council.
29th November 2010 - 8th April 2011
For over 40 years David Gentleman has been one of the country’s leading illustrators and graphic designers. He has worked extensively in book illustration, producing the covers for the Penguin Shakespeare series; in postage stamp design, revolutionising the way stamps look in this country; in poster design, working for the National Trust and also designing the ‘stop-the-war’ posters that were such a feature of the massive demonstrations against the war in Iraq. He also designed the Eleanor Cross mural that adorns Charring Cross Tube Station.
This exhibition concentrates on Gentleman’s book illustration, drawing on MMU Special Collection’s extensive holdings of his work which is displayed alongside the artist’s own archive of working drawings, sketchbooks, photography and design layouts. However the exhibition also includes his work in other fields to reflect Gentleman’s strongly held belief that the common principles and practices of drawing and design apply across the mediums to which they are applied.
Until 13 November 2010
Over the last 18 months, 32 disparate makers, from various backgrounds in craft, art and design, have formed 18 cross-disciplinary partnerships (or Pairings) and in the process have had to engage with new technologies and techniques that are unfamiliar and sometimes unlikely.
These marriages of materials, practices and creative identities has given birth to work and ideas that redefine the nature of the object and of craft.
Claire Curneen, Ismini Samanidou, David Gates, Alice Kettle and Stephen Dixon are among the 32 contributors, combining traditional and new practices in and across clay, glass, textiles, metal, wood, paper, digital and film media, and computerised manufacturing technology.
This exhibition aims to display and interpret the processes and document the ‘conversations’, as sketches, tests and experiments, as well as finished outcomes; to show intriguing new objects that challenge our notions of creative identity and ownership; and be a starting point and site for the second phase of activity, where the exhibition itself becomes a discussion between all the makers, and between the makers and the audience.
28 June - 3 September 2010
28 June - 9 July 2010
The content and format of the children's book are as varied as are our experiences and understandings of childhood. Within that great scope they seem to allow for a greater and more integral use of illustration that is often overlooked or unused in adult literature. For that reason, children's books are one of the cornerstones in the history of book illustration.
The books on display in this exhibition come from MMU Special Collection's Children's Book Collection and the Book Design Collection.
8 March 2010 - 12 June 2010
Edward Hughes (October 16, 1953 - March 31, 2006) was one of Britain's very finest potters. Sometimes called "one of studio pottery's best kept secrets" his work was extremely popular in Japan, his life's work was dedicated to making pots for others to use and he spoke about this with a passion.
This is a retrospective exhibition of Hughes' work and includes examples of his work from all periods, from his formative years when studying pottery through to the mature work made in his studios in Japan and Cumbria. The work shown shows his mastery of all aspects of the ceramicists art.
1 - 26 February 2010
The exhibition features beautiful, ornate handmade lace cards alongside some unexpectedly comic cards, some very offensive to the unlucky recipient!
Many of the sentiments are still culturally relevant celebrating and poking fun at what we now think of as stereotypical Victorian roles and values.
So if you're all 'loved up', come and see how Victorian cards compare to the one you receive or take inspiration from the sentiments expressed to write your own card!
If you are destined to be alone this Valentine's day don't despair as there are even cards to make you feel glad you are single!
Happy Valentine's Day From MMU Special Collections x
14 September 2009 to 29 January 2010
Working with MMU Special Collections, including the North West Film Archive, artists Carson & Miller have curated an exhibition that explores ideas of narrative, memory and collections. MMU academic Dr. Patricia Allmer (Research Fellow, MIRIAD) explores the activities of Carson & Miller in an essay written to accompany the exhibition: On Being Touched.
A new artists' book by Carson & Miller - Scrapbook (the story of things) - has been published by MMU Special Collections to coincide with the exhibition.
In tandem to The Story of Things a Righton Press publication will be launched. Stilled Lives is a new collaborative work bringing together artists, designers, poets and writers from across MMU. Edited by Carson & Miller this limited edition volume showcases a striking and thoughtful range of responses to the books held in MMU Special Collections, provoking further explorations of narrative, memory and collections.
Carson & Miller's collaborative art practice explores the impulse to tell and re-tell stories. The artists met whilst studying at MMU and have since developed a number of ways of working together, predominantly by utilising the artists' book format but also exploring print and performance methodologies. To find out more go to their weblog.
16 March 2009 - 21 August 2009
The oldest work dates from the 1840s whilst the most recent comes from some of the designers, artists and photographers at the forefront of the creative scene, such as Martin Parr, Liam Spencer and Jim Medway. The exhibition will also feature film from the North West Film Archive and photography from the School of Art archive to give a glimpse into the changing and unchanging life and times of art students at one of Britain's oldest and most important art schools.
Open to all Mon-Fri 10am-4pm, Thurs 10am-7pm
To mark the closing of the exhibition Wesley Meets Art, MMU Special Collections held an auction in the gallery of work made for the project on Wednesday 18th February at 6.00pm
Our guest auctioneer was Eric Knowles from the BBC's Antiques Roadshow.
Download the auction catalogue (pdf file, 700k)
Inspired by the William de Morgan pieces in Special Collections, and the fantastic work done by Wesley (see www.thewesley.org.uk) CJ O'Neill has been working as artist in residence at Wesley one day per week to develop a body of work in response to the environment and people there. Using ceramics from the 'brica' shop there as a canvas, CJ has developed a series of patterns based on a language of silhouettes exploring issues of identity. Staff are also working on their own pieces, developing patterns and cutting silhouettes by hand from transfer paper. The work will be exhibited with Garland's photography of the building, people and places, in the Special Collections' Gallery from 8 December 2008. There will be an auction of all the work developed on this project at the end of the exhibition in 2009 with all proceeds going to the charity helping to continue their great work.
Research and collaboration in places and pieces, ceramics and stitch
Helen Felcey is a ceramicist known for delicate and distinctive unglazed bone china tablewares; Alice Kettle is a textile artist known for expressive embroideries and machine stitched artworks dealing with psychological and mythological themes. In 2007 both completed projects with very distinct outcomes.
Alice Kettle was commissioned by Hampshire County Council to create a major public artwork for the Winchester Discovery Centre. Looking Forwards to the Past was a huge task, taking over a year to make and, measuring 3m x 16.5m, it is probably the largest machine embroidery made. The result is a vivid and compelling exploration of the history of the city and of the limits of machine stitch as a medium.
Helen Felcey's residency at the Jingdezhen Experimental Factory in China culminated in a solo show Two Rooms at the Chinese European Arts Centre in Xiamen in October 2007. New works inspired by this journey not only use different clays and introduce new elements of colour and texture that echo her experience of the Chinese landscape and people, but also encouraged a new found use of photography as a medium of recording and creating.
The research and working practices behind these projects expose a commonality of purpose and process common to many visual artists. In the course of mounting this exhibition, conversations between the artists and between their works have brought to light further, more particular, shared concerns. From these 'conversations' new collaborative work has been created which marks a new phase in the work of both artists and has resulted in some extraordinary pieces, which bring together two distinct areas of practice and two distinct characters.
This exhibition celebrates the work of the artist and illustrator Robin Jacques (1920 - 1995). Robin Jacques was that relatively rare thing: someone who successfully made a living as a commercial artist without any formal art education. Nevertheless he went on to pursue a highly successful and much respected career as an illustrator of books, magazines and advertising.
He achieved particular success with his lively and characterful pen and ink drawn illustrations for children's books and for his longstanding and popular editorial illustrations for the Radio Times.
The exhibition also marks the very generous donation, by Ann Valery, of the Robin Jacques archive to Manchester Metropolitan University Special Collections and also the publication of an illustrated bibliography of the work of Robin Jacques, compiled by Professor Ian Rogerson.
There will be a programme of lunchtime talks in the autumn to accompany both exhibitions. Please contact Special Collections for more details.
This exhibition celebrates the beauty and variety of decorated papers held within the Schmoller Collection of Decorated Papers in the Special Collections Gallery, Manchester Metropolitan University.
History shows that decorated papers were used for many things; as endpapers or wrappers for books or pamphlets; for covering deed boxes, trunks and screens; for lining the insides of harpsichords, desks and cupboards; and even for wallpapering chimney recesses, shelves and other small areas.
The collection itself is largely twentieth century in scope and whilst holding a fine selection of Oriental and Western sheets, by individual makers and companies, is perhaps most significant for the large collection of samples and sample books which are an invaluable aid to the identification of papers and makers as well as a record of the history of aesthetics and decoration.
For 50 years Hans and Tanya Schmoller shared a passion for books and their design and in particular for the myriad patterns and styles found in decorated papers. Together they collected thousands of individual sheets and samples of decorated papers, contemporary and historic, travelling the world to find new and beautiful examples. 'Never mind wasting one's time on art treasures: decorated paper collections were the priority... that is how it started. A collection of decorated papers which were used to brighten things up.' Tanya Schmoller from To Brighten Things Up, Manchester Metropolitan University, 2008
The opening of this exhibition was accompanied by the book: To brighten things up: The Schmoller Collection of Decorated Papers by Tanya Schmoller, with a foreword by Mirjam Foot.
With over 200 full colour images illustrating the variety held in the collection, this book includes chapters on gold-embossed papers, marbling, block printing, machine printing, paste papers, miscellaneous techniques including Batik (or Java) and air brushed papers. It also includes a selection of Oriental papers, mostly from Japan, China and India and covering a variety of techniques.
The book and the exhibition will be a helpful aid to understanding a neglected area of graphic design and will be appreciated by artists, students and researchers of all kinds with an interest in design, surface pattern, book history and much more.
Price: £60 for hardback and £30 for paperback with discounts for students and booksellers. Inland postage and packing £5.
Payment required with order, on goods under £20. Most major credit/debit cards are accepted. Cheques payable to the 'Manchester Metropolitan University'.
To Brighten Things Up: the Schmoller Collection of Decorated Papers, by Tanya Schmoller, with a forward by Mirjam Foot, Manchester Metropolitan University, 2008.
ISBN: Hardback 978-1-905476-27-5; Paperback 978-1-905476-28-2
500 copies of the book have been designed and produced by Northend Creative Print Solutions in Sheffield, 250 in 1/4 bound hardback, 250 softback but with a heavy 350 gsm cover. This book is 340x245mm, 80 pages with 205 full colour images. The typefaces use are Van Dijck and Gill Sans Light, the text stock a slightly off-white smooth coated 190 gsm which enhances the vibrant colours of the paper collection. Language: English.
An exhibition by Paul Scott: Ceramics, print and a selection of objects from the MMU Special Collections.
The relationship between drawing and ceramics is a relatively unexplored area of contemporary practice. Most ceramicists also work in other media in addition to clay and yet many of us remain unaware of that work and of any connections that could be made between these creative processes. This exhibition provided an opportunity to see that 'unknown' output and to expose more of the creative processes involved in the making of pots.
This association between the artist's two dimensional work and their pottery was explored through four themes:
Artists represented in the exhibition included Anna Adams, Nancy Angus, Felicity Aylieff, Sharon Blakey, Kyra Cane, John Chambers, Claire Curneen, Stephen Dixon, Helen Felcey, Susan Halls, Ewen Henderson, Tavs J?rgensen, Walter Keeler, Rob Kesseler, Bernard Leach, Bethan Lloyd Worthington, Jim Malone, Alex McErlain, Eric James Mellon, Lucie Rie, James Tower, Robin Welch and Scottie Wilson.
This exhibition was a collaborative project developed between MMU's Faculty of Art and Design and the Manchester Institute for Research in Art and Design (MIRIAD), Manchester Metropolitan University's Special Collections and the Peter Scott Gallery Art Collection at Lancaster University. The exhibition also featured work from the Yorkshire Museum Trust (from the Bill Ismay and Dean Milner-White Collections); from the Lucie Rie and Bernard Leach Archives at the Crafts Study Centre, University College for the Creative Arts, Farnham; the Anthony Shaw Collection and from the private collections of the ceramicists themselves.
Find out more at the exhibition's website, www.firingthoughts.co.uk, including details of the full-colour catalogue.
... takes a chronological look at the career of John Lawrence, who has illustrated many children's books and other works, notably those from the Folio Society. The exhibition displays books, wood engravings and sketches, along with archival material from the Special Collections.
... exhibited the work of Sharon Blakey and Hazel Jones, two artists working in the Faculty of Art and Design at Manchester Metropolitan University. Original pieces by the artists were shown alongside their collections of ephemera.
Download the exhibition's souvenir guide (.pdf file, 143k)
A display of material from the Barnett Freedman archive was put together to celebrate the publishing of a new book on Freedman, written by the former University Librarian, Professor Ian Rogerson, and published by Simon Lawrence at his Fleece Press. It ran from 11th September until 19th October 2006.
1st and 3rd Floor, Sir Kenneth Green Library
A survey of the work produced by artists working with the printing process known as autolithography, which gave artists complete control over colour and shade for the first time. The exhibition covers the work of UK based artists, including masters of the technique like Barnett Freedman, Stanley Badmin and Lynton Lamb, concentrating on the period 1930 - 1950.
There is a free souvenir guide available for this exhibition: download the souvenir guide. (.pdf file, 250k)
You may also be interested in the Exhibition Guide, which includes a list of items that were part of the exhibition. (.pdf file 110k)
3rd Floor and 1st Floor, Sir Kenneth Green Library
A group of library staff selected pieces that caught their attention from the Special Collections.
Documenting stylistic change in Domestic Architecture and the catalogues that helped promote new styles.
25 October 2004 - 14 January 2005
A look at the relationship between the natural world and the medical world, expressed in books and artefacts, from the 16th century until the early 20th century.
12 April - 30 July 2004
The work of Doreen Roberts, best known for her children's books, is celebrated in an exhibition based on Roberts' archive, donated to the Special Collections by the artist.
7 October 2003 - 26 March 2004
A wide-ranging exhibition on the life and work of artist and illustrator Eric Ravilious.
There is a catalogue available for this exhibition, 48pp including eight colour plates.
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