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Southwest Oral History Association celebrates 35 years at OHA@50

The Southwest Oral History Association (SOHA) will be celebrating its 35th Anniversary at OHA@50. In commemoration of the milestone, SOHA will host a celebration on Saturday October 15th from 6:30-8:00 pm at the historic First Congregational Church of Long Beach, located at 241 Cedar Avenue, Long Beach, California 90802 (about six blocks from the hotel). Please join us for a sociable evening of celebration, food, and drinks. All are welcome to attend: SOHA members, friends, supporters, and non-members as well.

That evening, we will honor this year’s James V. Mink Award recipient, oral historian and filmmaker Virginia Espino. The James V. Mink award was established in 1984 and named after an important figure in the field of oral history. Mink dedicated himself immensely to SOHA during the organization’s early days, thus the award carries a long legacy and highlights significant contributors and contributions in the field of oral history. Virginia is being celebrated for her outstanding and notable work on the enlightening documentary, No Mas Bebes. She has expressed excitement, humility, and gratitude over her award. “My role as a historian has been to follow in the footsteps of my mentor, and rescue histories of perseverance and resilience, and to highlight the uncommon courage of mothers and activists whose bravery benefits us all,” conveyed Virginia who through her research remains engaged and grounded in her community.

Come and be part of SOHA—either for one night or for the rest of your life. SOHA is committed to a diverse and laid back environment. A requested donation of $15 per person is expected with the proceeds going to the SOHA scholarship/grant fund.  For more information and to RSVP contact us at ude.v1632494788lnu@A1632494788HOS1632494788.

See you soon!!!

35th Event Flyer



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Examining Methodology through Interdisciplinary Work — Saturday plenary at OHA@50

One of oral history’s greatest strengths as a field is its interdisciplinarity.

For fifty years now, OHA has been a meeting ground for oral history practitioners from both within and outside the academy: a unique space for professors, public historians, archivists, educators, activists, museum curators, documentarians, artists, digital humanists, journalists, playwrights, and more. While we may not all share the same professional lingo, we do find common ground as a community of listeners.

Saturday’s plenary at OHA@50 will explore the impact of interdisciplinarity on oral history practice and praxis.

  • What informs oral history’s standards of ethics and rigor?
  • What inherent tensions exist among scholarly disciplines, commitments to social justice, and oral history methodology?
  • What does it mean to decolonize ourselves, our institutions, our movements, our practices?

The plenary will feature:

Nan Alamilla BoydProfessor of Women and Gender Studies at San Francisco State University. She teaches courses in the history of sexuality, queer theory, historical methodology, and urban tourism. Nan has also been a long-time volunteer at the GLBT Historical Society in San Francisco.  She founded the Historical Society’s oral history project in 1992. She isauthor of Bodies of Evidence, the Practice of Queer Oral History (Oxford UP, 2012), co-edited with Horacio N. Roque Ramírez (1969-2015); and Wide Open Town: A History of Queer San Francisco to 1965(University of California Press, 2003).

Roxanne Dunbar-Ortizhistorian, memoirist, feminist, and human rights activist. She grew up in rural Oklahoma, daughter of a landless farmer and half-Indian mother. Her paternal grandfather, a white settler, farmer, and veterinarian, had been a labor activist and Socialist in Oklahoma with the Industrial Workers of the World. Her books include Outlaw Woman: Memoir of the War Years, 1960-1975 (University of Oklahoma Press, Revised, 2014); The Great Sioux Nation: An Oral History of the Sioux Nation and its Struggle for Sovereignty (Moonbooks; Second Printing edition, 1980); and most recently, An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States (Beacon Press, 2014).

E. Patrick Johnsonthe Carlos Montezuma Professor of Performance Studies and African American Studies at Northwestern University. A scholar, artist, and activist, Johnson has performed nationally and internationally and has published widely in the area of race, gender, sexuality and performance.  His books include Appropriating Blackness: Performance and the Politics of Authenticity (Duke UP, 2003); and Sweet Tea: Black Gay Men of the South—An Oral History (University of North Carolina UP, 2008).He is currently at work on the companion text to Sweet Tea, entitled, Honeypot: Black Southern Women Who Love Women—An Oral History.

This panel will be moderated by past OHA President, Donald A. Ritchie. He is Historian Emeritus of the United States Senate, author of Doing Oral History: A Practical Guide (Oxford UP, 2003); and editor of The Oxford Handbook of Oral History (Oxford UP, 2010).

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“Make It Rain” on OHA — Tuesday, September 13

James Mink, on the left, at 1966 Colloquium.
Mink was the director of the UCLA Oral History Program from 1964-1972.

Thirty years ago one person, generous and committed to helping OHA reach greater heights, set us on path that continues to ensure the future of our organization.  In 1986, James V. Mink decided it was time to make it rain on the association during its 20th annual meeting on the Queen Mary at Long Beach.  During the business meeting, Mink presented the association with a $500 check—money he called “a rainy day fund”— to start the OHA endowment. When interviewed by Dale Treleven in 1999 for the Oral History Review, Mink explained that his generous donation was motivated by his longstanding worry that the association might “not be able to weather the financial storm” he saw confounding other organizations at the time, and what he wanted to see “was a fund or an endowment or whatever you want to call it” that would grow and support projects the organization might want to conduct.

The OHA comes full circle this year when we reconvene at Long Beach to celebrate our 50th Anniversary. The upcoming anniversary provides an opportunity to appreciate the accomplishments of the past, actively engage with the pressing issues of the present, and help sustain OHA well into the next half century and beyond.  Our endowment fund plays a critical role in this effort!  Contributions to the OHA endowment fund will help us build upon and enhance what we have done so very well over the past half century.  It will also enable the organization to move into new and exciting directions, including the dissemination of digital tools, strengthened partnerships at national and international levels, scholarships, and greater outreach efforts.  Most important, our endowment helps sustain the ability to continue work that expresses your personal and professional values.

For us to continue these efforts, we need your support.  Our goals for the 50th Anniversary Campaign are to grow our endowment by $50,000 and reach 50% member participation in the campaign through donations of money or time. We have raised $20,782 since the campaign began last year.  To help us raise the next $29,218, over the coming weeks we will be telling you more about how the endowment helps OHA and asking you to be a part of #MakeItRainOHA on September 13, 2016, a one-day online fundraising event for OHA.

Each donor who gives on Make It Rain Day will be entered in a drawing, and we will award five randomly picked winners the OHA 50th anniversary items available this year at the Annual Meeting – an OHA T-shirt, tote bag, and lapel pin. Mark your calendar for September 13 or DONATE NOW!

Thank you for your support and for helping make OHA the preeminent membership organization for people committed to the value of oral history.


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Apollo Theater video oral history project asks “Why Can’t We?”

The Apollo Theater Video Oral history Project at Wadleigh Secondary School for Performing & Visual Arts has just completed its sixth year. Thirty-five 11th graders learned to document oral history interviews using video in conjunction with their African American and Latin & Caribbean American Studies class.

Working with an Apollo teaching artist, Wadleigh Secondary students learn aspects of video production, applying foundational filmmaking tools and theory while recording personal accounts of historical events from a variety of interviewees. Over the course of conducting the interviews, students learn how to have productive conversations and how to research and gather information. Through this process, they are able to connect the past to the present while considering their own impact on the future of the community.

The project this year, Why Can’t We? focused on capturing the experiences of individuals who exceeded the expectations that life and society placed before them. As the students explored the lives and the contributions of people such as Dred Scott, Jackie Robinson, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Sixto Rodriguez they came across a common theme: Each of these individuals went beyond the limits that were placed before them. The students then sought out men and women in their communities to interview, who in their own way went beyond the limits and expectations that they faced. Following the interviews, students analyzed footage, researched information that added depth to their stories, and edited the content down to the most essential concepts that would best engage the audience.

Why Can’t We? from Apollo Theater on Vimeo.

WHY CAN’T WE? is posted on the Apollo Theater website.

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Thursday annual meeting plenary: Oral History, Now (and Tomorrow)

By Troy Reeves

All of us, even we humanists who should know better, seem to reflect upon an event more when the anniversary of it ends in a zero or five. And if its number equals 25 or 50 or 75 or 100, well then, watch out. There’s going to be a whole lot of remembering going on. (My apologies to Jerry Lee Lewis.)

At this year’s OHA Annual Meeting (OHA@50), I, along with colleagues Doug Boyd and Stephen Sloan, bought into this idea hook, line, and sinker. We proposed to the program committee co-chairs a plenary that would bring some of our best current thinkers and practitioners together to talk about oral history. I wanted to build on happenings since the OHR article published in 1999, “Reflections on Oral History in the New Millennium: Roundtable Comments,” which included comments from long-time OHA stalwarts Don Ritchie and Sherna Berger Gluck.

When Boyd, Sloan, and I chatted about these “happenings,” our list included the following:

  • the rise of oral history documenting current, sometimes traumatic or impactful events, such as 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina;
  • the creation and explosion of StoryCorps and the related “storybooths” that have popped up;
  • Web 2.0 or the rise (and perhaps the continued limitations) of technology, such as the new ability to put full audio (or audio/video) interviews online, the creation of OHMS and other tools to provide enhanced accessibility;
  • and the ethics of putting full interviews online and editing audio or audio/video.

We also noted these others:

  • the rise of the professionalization of our profession (OHMA);
  • the revivification (at least I’d argue it that way) of oral history being used to affect change;
  • and the rise of “Oral History of [Fill in the Blank]” on the web.

Along with these issues, the organization itself has changed since 1999. For example, our journal of record, The Oral History Review, has moved from the single-editor model to an editorial team and has incorporated audio excerpts into the online portion of the journal. Also, we have moved from an executive secretary to an executive director model of operation. With that, the OHA (through recently deceased Executive Director Cliff Kuhn) began to become a more prominent player and voice in the larger Humanities discussions.

So it seems time to ask (or return to) a question, What Is Oral History Now? And what will it be tomorrow?

This plenary session at 2016 OHA will build on not only past reflections but also what others in the field have written recently on or around this question, such as articles by Gluck, Alexander Freund, and Linda Shopes. We hope to chart a course for oral historians today and tomorrow. We do not intend to shy away from what we see as the negative effects of recent trends, but we also do not intend to come across as “Old Men (and Women) Yelling at the Clouds.” We love what we do and want to come together in this forum to present that passion and offer ideas on how to move forward in this age of technology, increased access to information, and continued inequalities.

So, we have invited the following folks to think about “What Is Oral History Now and Tomorrow?” and give a brief presentation on some aspect of it: Boyd, Paul Ortiz, Sloan, Amy Starecheski, and Natalie Fousekis. Their thoughts and ideas and opinions will create an engaging, thoughtful session by itself. But by keeping their remarks brief, we will give our presenters space to engage each other and our plenary attendees’ space to query them. At its best, we want this session to create a dialogue and discussion points that we all can carry forward into our projects, programs, and daily lives.

I’m going to leave it here for now. Except to say this: while I personally try to disavow the idea that anniversaries that end in a five or zero have more importance than any other milestone, the OHA has made this anniversary a big deal. And I agree with them, not just because they accepted our plenary idea, but because continuing to function as an organization after 50 years is a big deal. And we should celebrate and reflect upon it. So, whether one attends this session or not, I hope everyone will be able to attend OHA@50 and talk to your fellow attendees about your work and grapple over all the questions (big and small) that comprise oral history.


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Throwback Thursday — memories of 1989…

Follow our weekly series, Throwback Thursday, designed to help celebrate 50 years of OHA. We’ll profile a year in the life of the organization each week with photos, logos, and highlights taken from the Oral History Association Newsletter. We welcome your memories, photos, and comments at ude.u1632494788sg@ah1632494788o1632494788.

OHA in 1989…

Performing Like a Family, 1988: Photograph of performance ensemble, production staff, and Like a Family co-author Robert Korstad at Homestead United Methodist Church, across from the defunct Homestead Mills in Charlotte, N.C. Photo credit: Southern Oral History Program, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

President: Lila Johnson Goff, Minnesota Historical Society
Site of the Annual Meeting: Galveston, Texas
Newsletter: Jaclyn Jeffrey, editor
Editorial office: Baylor University, Waco, Texas
Annual individual membership: $20

Highlights of the year from the 1989 Oral History Association Newsletter:

  • Efforts were being made to move forward with new titles for the OHA Pamphlet series. OHA was in talks with the American Association for State and Local History regarding a publishing partnership given the large membership of AASLH who might be interested in oral history and its marketing experience. Editors were being solicited for publications on community history, family history, grantwriting, folk like, and material culture. Oral History in the Secondary Classroom had recently been published.
  • “Have nuclear weapons kept the peace or endlessly endangered humanity? The lack of information needed to answer that question generated the establishment of the Nuclear History Program, an international research effort founded in 1987.” The Spring 1989 newsletter featured the collaborative work of the NHP as it sought to develop primary source material for its three main research areas: issue-oriented projects, national nuclear histories, and broad-scale analyses of the impact of nuclear weapons internationally.
  • OHA members adopted the first revision to the association’s Evaluation Guidelines at the business meeting in 1989. Originally prepared at the Wingspread Conference in 1979, the guidelines offer a series of questions for “evaluating the conduct, processing, and preservation of oral history collections.”
  • “We wanted to keep the stories alive and keep history ongoing,” said Della Pollock as she described the impetus for “Performing Like a Family” in the Spring 1989 newsletter. Eleven UNC undergrads in an independent study course completed Pollack’s vision for a performance based on the award-winning book about Southern cotton mill villages. Students pulled characters and dialogue from the award-winning book and wove them together into a script. Built into the script were opportunities for interaction between performers and the audiences which were comprised mainly of mill workers and related community workers.


Who were we interviewing in 1989?

  • Alaska Humanities Forum — Chugach and Kodiak natives about the impact of the Exxon Valdez oil spill on nearby native villages.
  • National Gallery of Art — persons associated with the the early years of the gallery as it prepares to celebrate its upcoming 50th anniversary.
  • The Center for Oral History, University of Hawaii at Manoa — former residents and workers on Wakiki Beach before tourism, covering topics ranging from Japanese laundry to the original beach boys.





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OHA announces 2016 annual award recipients

In 1993, the Oral History Association established a series of awards to recognize outstanding achievement in oral history. We are delighted to announce the recipients of the 2016 Oral History Association annual awards listed below. Thank you to the members of the award committees who contributed their time to make these outstanding selections.

The 2016 awards will be presented at the OHA annual meeting in Long Beach on Thursday evening, October 13, 2016.


Article Award
“Under Storytelling’s Spell? Oral History in a Neoliberal Age”
Alexander Freund, The University of Winnipeg
Oral History Review, Winter/Spring 2015

Book Award
Memory, Subjectivities, and Representation: Approaches to Oral History in Latin America, Portugal, and Spain
Rina Benmayor, Maria Eugenia Cardenal de la Nuez, and Pilar Dominguez Prats, editors
Palgrave Macmillan, 2016

Elizabeth B. Mason Project Award (major project)
New Roots/Nuevas Raíces: Improving Global Access of Latino Oral Histories
Latino Migration Project, Southern Oral History Program, and the University Libraries at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Elizabeth B. Mason Project Award (small project)
Talking the Blues: An Oral History of Blues Musicians in Austin, Texas
Roger Davis Gatchet, West Chester University

Postsecondary Teaching Award
Brooke Bryan, Antioch College

Stetson Kennedy Vox Populi (“Voice of the People”) Award
Mario T. Garcia, Distinguished Professor of Chicano Studies and History, University of California, Santa Barbara

Emerging Crises Oral History Research Fund grant
“Climate Refugees: The Vanishing of Isle de Jean Charles, Louisiana”
Heather Stone, University of Louisiana at Lafayette

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Announcing second annual speed networking session

Photo courtesy of Columbia Oral History Alumni Association

Are you new to oral history? Do you want to meet established oral historians who can offer insight into their experiences entering the field and ideas on how to get the most out of the Annual Meeting? Join OHA and the Mentorship Development Team for our second annual speed networking session to be held during the Annual Meeting in Long Beach, California, on Friday, October 14 from 9:00 to 10:30 AM.

During the event, emerging professionals will have the opportunity to rotate through meetings with practitioners from a variety of backgrounds, including higher education, freelance consultants, and project managers. The session will also provide an opportunity for participants to connect with other new attendees and develop community within the conference.

The goal of the speed networking event is to provide a lively and engaging way to build bridges between established OHA members and those new to the field. Ideally, these connections will carry over long after the Annual Meeting concludes.

Space is limited to the first thirty participants, so be sure to sign up by following this link! If you would like to serve as a speed networking mentor and encourage the efforts of emerging professionals, please email ude.b1632494788musc@1632494788ettel1632494788lofal1632494788k1632494788.

Hope to see you all in Long Beach!

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International Committee sponsors sessions at 2016 annual meeting

The International Committee is pleased to sponsor the following sessions at the upcoming Annual Meeting in Long Beach, CA from October 12-16, 2016.

Thursday, October 13, 2016, 8:30 AM

New Immigrants, New Working Class: Stories from Recent Immigrant Workers in Iowa and Southern California (Panel)


Over the last thirty five years, new groups of immigrants have played a central role in reshaping work in diverse industries across the United States. In the process, they have presented the country’s besieged labor movement with both challenges and opportunities. This session highlights oral histories from two projects directed at recent immigrants’ struggles in two distinct workplace, union, and regional contexts. In the first part of the session, John McKerley and Mariana Ramirez will present findings from their interviews with packinghouse workers (some non-union and some members of the United Food and Commercial Workers) in rural and small-town Iowa. In his part of the presentation, McKerley will place the recent interviews within the context of the parent project (the Iowa Labor History Oral Project) and the larger historiography of meatpacking workers and their unions, particularly the tradition established by the United Packinghouse Workers Oral History Project during the 1980s. Ramirez will build on this presentation with a discussion of recent interviews, particularly those she has conducted with Spanish-speaking narrators. In the third presentation, Andrew Gomez will describe his work with service workers who organized in and around Los Angeles under the banner of Justice for Janitors, an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union. Working in concert with the UCLA Center for Oral History, he has collected interviews with rank-and-file members, organizers, and local allies in an attempt to understand the roots of the Justice for Janitors movement, its successes, and the histories of the primarily Mexican and Central American workers who have propelled the movement. The session will conclude with comments from and discussion with the audience. The session will be chaired by Toby Higbie of the UCLA History Department.

Thursday, October 13, 2016, 3:15 PM

Dreams, traumas, and alternate realities; Uncovering and preserving the narratives of Iraqi refugees and migrants (Panel)


There is a growing community of Iraqis in the United States. This community consists of different waves of migrants and refugees that fled Iraq in response to the different tragic episodes of recent Iraqi history. Whether it was the rise of a brutal dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, or as a result of the 1991 Gulf War, or the ensuing sanctions regime that devastated the Iraqi population, or the most recent invasion, occupation, and devastation that followed, each event created a new wave of refugees and migrants. The result is the emergence of an extensive transnational Iraqi community that spans the globe including different parts of the United States. These communities in addition to representing different segments of Iraqi society, were part of social movements, grassroots organizations, political parties and other civil society groups who had to flee or migrate due to the repression they faced because of the very ideas that they held. Indeed, each community is a dossier of lost dreams, histories of a world otherwise.

This panel consists of four founding members of the Iraqi Oral History project. Still in its first year, the project has grown nationally with participants across the United States. The project started as an effort to collect broadly the stories and historical artifacts of Iraqis living in the United States. The four papers will present some of the themes collected from the oral histories as well as reflect on the very process of collecting these stories. The panel will have these overarching questions: 1. How does war and state repression foment communal mistrust and breakdown social solidarities? 2. What are the consequences of being a refugee on one’s political subjectivity? 3. What are the consequences of uncovering hidden stories about a distant birthplace for second and third generation individuals who are taking part in the oral history research?

Friday, October 14, 2016 2:15 PM

The Trailblazing Australian Women Lawyers Oral History Project: interdisciplinary approaches to collecting and interpreting women’s narratives of lives in the law (Panel)

Kim Rubenstein, Principle Investigator, The Trailblazing Women and the Law Project


The Trailblazing Women and the Law (TBWL) Project funded, in part, by the Australian Research Council, will create, showcase and analyse the oral history of seven decades of Australia’s pioneer, ‘trailblazing’, women lawyers. The TBWL Project features over 50 whole of life oral histories and an online exhibition, featuring the biographical details of over 300 women nominated as trailblazers and significant contributors to law and society in Australia. The project brings together the interdisciplinary fields of gender, oral history, biography, digital humanities, social and cultural informatics,law and citizenship and explores how women’s gendered, classed and racialized identities shape their personal, public and professional lives. This panel will discuss the various methodological and ethical issues the research team has encountered in the course of the three year project, and will demonstrate the range of outcomes relevant to legal history, oral history theory and digital humanities that have been produced across the life of the three year project.

Saturday, October 15, 2016 8:30 AM

Oral History Education and Reconciliation: International Reflections on Curriculum and Pedagogy



The theme of this panel responds to this time of reconciliation, when the telling and hearing the stories of lived experiences of harm are pivotal to struggles for an equitable future. Historical narratives, inclusive of peoples’ everyday voices, serve a public pedagogical function that can be transformative for law, policy, and citizenship. Government commissions, the judicial system, and para-public institutions seek oral histories in an effort to redress harm (e.g. Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission, There is an international movement to draw upon oral histories in processes of redress of segregation, apartheid, forced migration, genocide, and other human rights abuses (e.g. Henderson & Wakeham, 2013). Educators have sought to reconceptualize (and not without limits) the curricular and pedagogical ways in which history is now taught inside and outside of public schools (e.g. Smith, 1999; Stearns et al., 2000; Levstik & Barton, 2011; Sandwell & Von Heyking, 2014). In a sense such changes during these times of reconciliation are working toward storying a different kind of (national) historical consciousness. Responding to these shifting historical and contemporary disciplinary contexts, a number of scholars and history educators have and continue to argue that the role of history education is less about instilling knowledge of historical particulars–events, persons and dates–and more about developing “historical consciousness” amongst young people (see Sexias, 2004). And yet, how are historians, history educators, and more broadly speaking educational researchers drawing on oral history research to address the curricular and pedagogical debates in terms of teaching history as praxis for storying the difficult knowledge of our past? And, how does oral history education lend itself to the potential redress of historical harms? This panel addresses these questions from international contexts and by providing specific examples of the intersections of oral history, reconciliation, and curricular/pedagogical innovation.

Saturday, October 15, 2015 10:15 AM

Approaches to Oral History in Latin America, Portugal, and Spain (Roundtable)


The Palgrave Studies in Oral History has just published Memory, Subjectivities, and Representation: Approaches to Oral History in Latin America, Portugal, and Spain, a collection of eleven original essays written in Spanish, Portuguese and English. The Series’ first volume of translated essays, the book crosses linguistic, disciplinary, and interpretive boundaries, showing a range of approaches to the analysis and presentation of oral material. Themes include: collective and individual memory, construction of individual subjectivities, visual representations of oral narratives, memories of war and political activism, women’s narratives, emotions and memory, migration, sex work, pedagogical uses of oral history, tattoos as auto-bio-graphical inscriptions, reshaping national narratives, and oral history performance. Rina Benmayor (US) – coeditor. Interdisciplinarity and the importance of translation. Pilar Dominguez (Spain) – coeditor and author. Individual and collective memory among trade union workers in Spain at the end of the Franco dictatorship. Joana Maria Pedro (Brazil) – author. Gendered narratives of former women militants in revolutionary movements in the Southern Cone. Miren Llona (Spain) – author. Emotions and “enclaves of memory,” in the narrative of a Basque nationalist woman. Joana Craveiro (Portugal) – author. The use of oral histories, archival documentation, and audience discussion in a performance-lecutre piece on the 1975 Carnation Revolution in Portugal.

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