Frequently Asked Questions

Audio Materials   Questions for this topic will be added as they come in. In the meantime please click on the heading to the left for more information in this area.
Care and Handling 1. I have several items that have become wet at some point. The main damage seems to be wrinkling and staining. How can I fix it? 
2. I am interested in preserving and mounting for display selected pages from a newspaper that is approximately 50 years old. The paper is somewhat yellowed but in otherwise good condition.
3. Our Library is faced with a lot of books with dust in the stacks. I would like to mobilize our cleaners to clean the books on the bookshelves. I do not wish to use vacuum cleaners as it creates distracting noises for readers.
4. I recently had an outbreak of mold in my library, and many of the books are mold-damaged. What should I do to remove the mold?

 

Conservation 1. How should I care for old metal printing plates and dies?
2. I would like to know how to properly store a 100 year old family Bible. Do I have a Bible box made and if so, what materials should be used?
3. I have some newspapers that I would like to be preserve. Would you be able to provide any recommendations for the best way of preserving these newspapers (and magazines)?
4. I have a couple of old books with bindings that are deteriorated and some old documents in poor condition. What steps I should I take to have that done?
5. How can I find out about the conservation qualities of paper?
6. I am making hermetically sealed frames for the paper images. I am taking measures to ensure a complete seal (brazed steel rectangle, glass sheet glued in front , sealed with silicon adhesive, paper image sandwiched between the glass). Humidity can't enter easily. I'm leaving room for lateral expansion of the paper within the trap. What are your thoughts about this framing style?
7. I have an important scrap book that includes newspapers cuttings and original photographs, some of which have been laminated. All are in very poor condition. How should I preserve it? The scrap book consists of a series of newspaper clippings laminated on a piece of cardboard or posterboard that is not acid free.
8. I have a scrap book of important materials including newsclippings, programs, etc. belonging to my Father from before the Second World War. Most of the items were attached to the scrapbook with either rubber cement or some other adhesive. How can I remove the items safely from the scrapbook? Can I remove the "glue" stain from the back of the items. How can I stop the newspaper articles from further disintegration?
9. My particular interest is in grammaphone record covers. When purchasing records from old collections they often have a mildew odor and sometimes signs of mold. Can this odor be removed? Someone suggested the use of microwaves?
10. Where do I get the clam-shell box as you have described on the tutorial that are covered in buckram?
11. Some authors writing in India in books on the conservation and preservation of paper materials advocate the use of bleaching agents such as hydrochloric acid or bleaching powder for the bleaching of paper documents. Is this advisable?
12. At the Asa Archives in Kathmandu there are many 300 year-old palm leaf manuscripts. They are of natural length (approx. 50 cm up to 1m), have a small clay seal of approx. 1.5cm diameter and over 1cm thickness attached and are stored in a tightly rolled form, seal inside. Is this rolled form appropriate?
13. I am wondering what to do with palm leaf manuscripts that are wrapped in cloth? The cloth is lined velvet embroidered with metallic thread and the interior silk and the velvet are both beginning to wear.
14. Do you treat palm leaf manuscripts with oil and if so which oil do you use?
15. If a palm leaf manuscript has lost both cords, do you always restring it with a cord? If so, do you have a suggestion for what material and how to anchor it?
16.   I plan to retain at an example of every newspaper title in original condition. Should I try encapsulate the fragile newspaper or simply keep them in acid free boxes?

 

Deacidification 1. I am interested in having some form of mass deacidification contracted for my library, especially for newspapers. Can you suggest a source?

 

Digital Imaging   Questions for this topic will be added as they come in. In the meantime please click on the heading to the left for more information in this area.
Disaster Planning and Salvage

 

  Questions for this topic will be added as they come in. In the meantime please click on the heading to the left for more information in this area.
Education and Training 1. Do you offer internships to postgraduate students? Is your program a degree, diploma and what is the matriculation requirements to qualify for your program?
2. I wish to know if you have paper conservation courses by distance learning.
3. I am from Sonobudoyo Museum in the Conservation Department, Yogyakarta-Indonesia. I want to study about book conservation. Can I follow the conservation program described in the tutorial?

 

Environment 1. What would be the single most important consideration in selecting a location for preserving archival materials, photos, tapes, letters etc.?

 

2.   I am interested in monitoring the climate in my library. What is the best way to do this?
Facilities   Questions for this topic will be added as they come in. In the meantime please click on the heading to the left for more information in this area.
Funding   Questions for this topic will be added as they come in. In the meantime please click on the heading to the left for more information in this area.
Housekeeping   Questions for this topic will be added as they come in. In the meantime please click on the heading to the left for more information in this area.
Microform   Questions for this topic will be added as they come in. In the meantime please click on the heading to the left for more information in this area.
Mold   Questions for this topic will be added as they come in. In the meantime please click on the heading to the left for more information in this area.
Nature of Materials   Questions for this topic will be added as they come in. In the meantime please click on the heading to the left for more information in this area.
Needs Assessment

 

  Questions for this topic will be added as they come in. In the meantime please click on the heading to the left for more information in this area.
Pests 1. We have recently detected larva cases and frass from some small insects in our collection of poetry on sections of bamboo from Mindoro, Philippines, acquired in the early 20th century. What should we do about it? The storage area for the bamboo are air-conditioned. What should we do?
2. Do you have any information on the health problems caused by harmful chemicals used to kill insects? I am researching the chemical pesticides that have been applied to herbarium collections.

Security 1. You recommend that two ownership stamps should be placed on a book for security reasons. How should these be positioned?

 

Care and Handling

1. I have several items that have become wet at some point. The main damage seems to be wrinkling and staining. How can I fix it?

If a piece is a single leaf, lightly spray it with a fine mist of water then press it between sheets of blotting paper. When it is dry, the wrinkles and some of the staining will be much reduced. Be sure to test for any water soluble inks or pigments before proceeding.
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2. I am interested in preserving and mounting for display selected pages from a newspaper that is approximately 50 years old. The paper is somewhat yellowed but in otherwise good condition.

I would strongly advise you not to exhibit newsprint as it contains lignin, a material that is highly photo-sensitive. Newsprint will darken significantly if exposed to light for any period of time and in any degree of light intensity. I recommend that you have high quality photocopy facsimiles made and display them instead. Good photocopy equipment, especially in commercial shops, such as Kinko, can now produce very credible copies of even large format materials.
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3. Our Library is faced with a lot of books with dust in the stacks. I would like to mobilize our cleaners to clean the books on the bookshelves. I do not wish to use vacuum cleaners as it creates distracting noises for readers.

You may wish to supply the cleaners with special dusters sold by the Gaylord company. There are two products: Dust Bunny and One-Wipe Dust Cloth. You will find the products on the web site. Gaylord does have an international section.
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4. I recently had an outbreak of mold in my library, and many of the books are mold-damaged. What should I do to remove the mold?

The treatment of mold-infected books requires that they be taken to a well-ventilated area with electric fans to increase air movement. A good arrangement is to stand the books on edge with the boards slightly opened have a fan blow across them through an open window or to handle the books inside a running fume hood (cupboard). Rapidly moving air will dry out the moisture and desiccate the mold spores, rendering them inactive. If necessary, take the books outdoors and place in the sun and a mild breeze for a short time, and if possible, remove the mold outdoors. Ultraviolet rays from the sun will kill mold. In handling infected books, staff should wear HEPA face masks or respirators and plastic or rubber gloves. When the books are dry, a HEPA filter vacuum cleaner should be used to remove as much of the inactive mold as possible from the covers of the books. If you do not have a HEPA filter vacuum, activated dusters (dusters with an electrostatic charge, or containing a mild adhesive) can be used. The dusters should be laid over the infected area and the mold spores gently picked up. This procedure prevents mold spores from being released into the air. When the soft mold has been removed, the outside of book covers can be wiped with a solution of ethyl alcohol. This acts as a mild solvent to remove some of the outer staining. Care must be taken not to wet the area too much. The inside of the books can now be examined. In many cases, mold stains will be seen on the inside of the binding, near the joints and at the head and tail. The stains can be gently swabbed with ethyl alcohol, but it is unlikely that they will be completely removed. Although mold stains can be treated with chemical bleach, this is not recommended because bleach can cause the paper to deteriorate rapidly, especially in humid conditions.
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Conservation

1. How should I care for old metal printing plates and dies?

The plates and dies may be various mixtures of alloys, steel, and other metals. Given that some of the components might rust, you need to ensure that the surfaces are clean, protected by a shock-resistant materials---such as stable corrugated board--- and stored in a dry place. They should be checked for rusting on a regular basis. If rust spots begin to develop, clean them off then very lightly oil all surfaces with a clear machine oil or cover with a silicone spray coating. If made up of one of the alloys containing copper (brass for example), there is a chance that the sulphur in polluted air might cause an oxide film to develop (such as on a copper coin). For detailed information on remedial treatment and storage see Plenderlieth and Werner, The Preservation of Antiquities and Works of Art (London: OUP, 1988)..
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2. I would like to know how to properly store a 100 year old family Bible. Do I have a Bible box made and if so, what materials should be used?

You are quite correct to consider boxing your Bible. For most materials of that type, the best strategy is to stabilize and protect. You may wish to consider photocopying any genealogical information in the Bible (usually it resides between the Old and New Testaments). The type of box can vary, but it is generally best to use acid-free/buffered materials. You can commission someone to make the box or simply buy a suitably sized box from a variety of companies including the following international vendors:
Light Impressions
University Products
Gaylord Bros
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3. I have some newspapers that I would like to be preserve. Would you be able to provide any recommendations for the best way of preserving these newspapers (and magazines)?

The first thing is to secure an artifact/print box and a folder of the appropriate size. You can purchase these from Light Impressions, University Products, or Gaylord Bros. Open out the newspaper into the form in which it will be stored (i.e. usually with the original single fold). Make sure that the paper is not creased, then place it under a flat weight to help to flatten out the fold as much as possible. Place the paper in the folder and the folder in the box. Make sure that you do not store the box in the basement, in the attic, or other place where mold might be present. The box and the folder should be of archival quality. Although newsprint is quite acidic, the alkaline folder and box will help to lengthen its life.
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4. I have a couple of old books with bindings that are deteriorated and some old documents in poor condition. What steps I should I take to have that done?

You need to be careful in entrusting your valuable books and documents to just any conservator or bookbinder. First, you need to ascertain whether the conservator cares for books and documents in a reputable institution, such as a research library. Second, you need to examine work performed by the conservator. You may be better simply stabilizing the books and documents in a chemically stable box.
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5. How can I find out about the conservation qualities of paper?

The best way to test the paper is through a pH test, something that is really quite simple if you purchase a kit. You can purchase them from University Products, www.universityproducts.com (1-800-628-9281). The pH strip are the most accurate. You may also wish to purchase the lignin test pens, as lignin can darken paper as it is very photosensitive.
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6. I am making hermetically sealed frames for the paper images. I am taking measures to ensure a complete seal (brazed steel rectangle, glass sheet glued in front , sealed with silicon adhesive, paper image sandwiched between the glass). Humidity can't enter easily. I'm leaving room for lateral expansion of the paper within the trap. What are your thoughts about this framing style?

In making the frame, you may wish to include some micro-chamber board as it can absorb many pollutants and humidity. In order to hermetically seal anything, you would need to totally exclude the air by purging with a stable gas. I think you need to make sure that the frame package contains stable products that are constructed in a stable environment (i.e. when the RH is low). If you seal a package in a humid environment mold will develop inside the frame as there is no air circulation. Moreover, you need to condition the materials by reducing their humidity prior to framing. Make sure that you use UV3 Plexiglass to reduce the risk of fading.
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7. I have an important scrap book that includes newspapers cuttings and original photographs, some of which have been laminated. All are in very poor condition. How should I preserve it? The scrap book consists of a series of newspaper clippings laminated on a piece of cardboard or posterboard that is not acid free.

Scrapbooks are difficult to restore because of the usually brittle nature of the cuttings. In this case, the plastic laminate complicates the situation as it is virtually irreversible and the cuttings and photographs cannot easily be treated or removed from the laminate. Consider one or both of the following options.

1. Using a high-quality color photocopy machine, copy the cuttings and text: a color copier will capture some of the tones better than a black/white copier. Make sure you use an acid-free paper.

2.Using a high resolution scanner, scan the cuttings. This has the advantage of capturing the pictures and text digitally so that you can mount them on a web-site as well as allowing you to print out the resultant images.

In both options, you would place the original in an acid-free box and simply store it. You can then bind the paper copies of the work.
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8.I have a scrap book of important materials including newsclippings, programs, etc. belonging to my Father from before the Second World War. Most of the items were attached to the scrapbook with either rubber cement or some other adhesive. How can I remove the items safely from the scrapbook? Can I remove the "glue" stain from the back of the items. How can I stop the newspaper articles from further disintegration?

The scrapbook format is difficult to process because of the different elements from which it is made. The adhesive may be water soluble and simple to soak off. Try to isolate a leaf of the book with some plastic sheeting (i.e. place a piece of plastic under the leaf to avoid damaging the leaf below). Place a damp piece of blotting paper over one of the newspaper clippings under a light weight. Leave it for about twenty minutes then very carefully, using a spatula, lift the newspaper from the leaf. Place the newspaper clipping between two pieces of dry blotting paper to dry.

If the adhesive is rubber cement and resistant to water, try to carefully separate the piece from the leaf mechanically using a thin spatula or knife. Obviously, many of the pieces may be very brittle and you may wish to simply leave this in place. I think you may wish to consider obtaining a good photocopy of the clippings and save only the other artifacts. It is unlikely that you can remove the stains without some fairly complex treatment.
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9. My particular interest is in grammaphone record covers. When purchasing records from old collections they often have a mildew odor and sometimes signs of mold. Can this odor be removed? Someone suggested the use of microwaves?

The mold damage is the result of poor storage. Mold will grow wherever there is high relative humidity and insufficient air circulation, so the best way to begin to correct this is to reverse the conditions. Remove the record disc from the jacket and carefully wipe it with a disc cleaner solution, taking care to wipe with the groove. Place a piece of blotting paper inside the cover and try to stand it up so that air may circulate through it (using a fan can expedite this). Carefully wipe any affected areas with cheesecloth and ethyl alcohol. The odor that you can detect will gradually dissipate or you can place the covers into a dry airtight container with baking soda. The odor is quite hardy and will linger for a long time. Just remember that treating the covers will be wasted time if you return them to the same storage environment.
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10. Where do I get the clam-shell box as you have described on the tutorial that are covered in buckram?

The clam-shell box may be a fold-back design with two trays hinged in the middle, or a drop-front type. The fold-back is usually best for enclosing books, the drop-front best for enclosing loose materials such as groups of pamphlets. The strongest clam-shell box is one constructed from a sturdy, acid-free board supported with binders' board and covered in buckram. There are companies who sell these boxes according to measurements that you provide.
Light Impressions
University Products
Gaylord Bros
See also Cornell University Department of Preservation and Collection Maintenance for construction instructions.
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11. Some authors writing in India in books on the conservation and preservation of paper materials advocate the use of bleaching agents such as hydrochloric acid or bleaching powder for the bleaching of paper documents. Is this advisable?

Generally speaking, you should not use any form of bleach on paper. Although there are advocates for a weak solution of bleach for some staining problems, it is extremely difficult washing out the bleach residue, and the bleach will continue to act and deteriorate the paper especially in conditions of high relative humidity. For paper that does not contain ground wood and lignin, you may wish to try light or sun bleaching which is described in the tutorial.
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12. At the Asa Archives in Kathmandu there are many 300 year-old palm leaf manuscripts. They are of natural length (approx. 50 cm up to 1m), have a small clay seal of approx. 1.5cm diameter and over 1cm thickness attached and are stored in a tightly rolled form, seal inside. Is this rolled form appropriate?

My natural instinct would be to unroll these manuscripts and store them flat, especially if the structure is being damaged as a result of opening and closing them. You do not indicate what the width of the documents are, but assuming that they are 8 to 10 centimeters, you may wish to consider some sort of enclosure structure that will secure three manuscripts side by side. An arrangement that combines a solid board with a polyester film overlay might work, leaving the seal to overhang the structure. I think this is one case where you have to ask what it is you are trying to preserve, and the answer should be the artifact and the written text, thus you probably should consider the best way to preserve both. You may wish to contact Dr O.P. Agrawal at the Indian Council of Conservation Institutes for his advice. He can be contacted at the New Delhi office fax number 011 4611290 or the Lucknow office fax number 0522 377814 (e-mail iccins@sancharnet.in).
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13. I am wondering what to do with palm leaf manuscripts that are wrapped in cloth? The cloth is lined velvet embroidered with metallic thread and the interior silk and the velvet are both beginning to wear.

The technique that I recommend is to enclose the manuscript in a file-folder wrapper then wrap the cloth around it, the resultant package(s) placed into a clam shell box.
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14. Do you treat palm leaf manuscripts with oil and if so which oil do you use?

If we find that we have to clean the manuscript with water to restore the clarity of the script and/or repair breaks or losses, we apply a thin coat of colorless neem oil. This restores some of the flexibility of the leaf, which tends to dryness as the water dries. Although many types of aromatic oils have been used in the past, neem has the advantage of having a strong insect repellent qualities.
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15. If a palm leaf manuscript has lost both cords, do you always restring it with a cord? If so, do you have a suggestion for what material and how to anchor it?

In a more recent approach to the care of these manuscripts, we now refrain from adding a cotton string, leaving the manuscripts unstrung. We do use a double-sided 1/2" wide velcro tape with which we secure the manuscripts prior to enclosing. This is applied about four inches from each end of the manuscript. We include in the package a note to warn the user that the manuscript has been left unstrung and for the reader to exercise care. Many Burmese manuscripts are secured with bamboo splints which we do not remove.
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16. I plan to retain at an example of every newspaper title in original condition. Should I try encapsulate the fragile newspaper or simply keep them in acid free boxes?

Encapsulation works very well if the newspaper is deacidified. I would strongly recommend that you spray deacidify the newspapers encapsulation. Another alternative might be to flatten them out, interleave them with an alkaline paper, such as Permalife, and place them in an acid-free storage box.
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Deacidification


1. I am interested in having some form of mass deacidification contracted for my library, especially for newspapers. Can you suggest a source?

Mass deacidification may be a very good thing for you to do. I think you may wish to contact a number of companies and they will advise you on their facilties and services. I recommend contacting Zentrum fur Bucherhaltung (email is compact-ag@t-online.de). The director, Ernst Becker, will advise you. This company has an excellent process for treating newspapers.
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Education and Training

1. Do you offer internships to postgraduate students? Is your program a degree, diploma and what is the matriculation requirements to qualify for your program?

We do offer a post-graduate fellowship in conservation but that is funded by the Getty Foundation and is specifically targeted at new graduates of formal conservation education programs in paper conservation. However, we will always consider offering internships to interested people provided that funding can found. You could consider applying for various scholarships, including the Fulbright program. You could probably find accurate information about these programs from the US Consulate or public affairs office. The American Library Association also has a fellows program through its international office.
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2. I wish to know if you have paper conservation courses by distance learning.

At this point, we do not offer a distance learning course in paper conservation. However, you may find the preservation tutorial useful and you should continue to monitor the Cornell University web-site for current information on education and training.
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3. I am from Sonobudoyo Museum in the Conservation Department, Yogyakarta-Indonesia. I want to study about book conservation. Can I follow the conservation program described in the tutorial?

The tutorial will give you enough guidance for basic work, such as book repair and the construction of protective enclosures, but it is not intended to be a definitive bookbinding text book. I recommend that you try to arrange a training program through your national library.
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Environment

1. What would be the single most important consideration in selecting a location for preserving archival materials, photos, tapes, letters etc.?

You need to select a place that is dry, secure, and safe from fire, without any possibility of the storage site getting worse. Generally a space somewhere in the center of a building (not in the basement nor in the attic), and not under any waste or water pipes. You need to have good air circulation and have reasonable protection from strong light. You need to have good security, making sure that readers are under a watchful eye and that they do not have direct access to the main collections. It would be nice to have HVAC but you should have it active all the time--better none at all than on only part of the time.
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2. I am interested in monitoring the climate in my library. What is the best way to do this?

There are a number of different devices for monitoring the environment including recording hygrothermographs and date loggers. I prefer data loggers as they generally cost less and are much less expensive to maintain as they are factory calibrated. There are a number of different types of instruments available (see descriptions in the tutorial) including internet data loggers which can be accessed remotely from a web-site.
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Pests

1.We have recently detected larva cases and frass from some small insects in our collection of poetry on sections of bamboo from Mindoro, Philippines, acquired in the early 20th century. What should we do about it? The storage area for the bamboo are air-conditioned. What should we do?

It is unlikely that the evidence that you have found indicates current insect activity. However, there are a number of methods that you may wish to undertake to be safe. You can place the bamboo in an air-tight container with an open container of carbon disulphide placed above the object at the rate of 100 ml to each cubic meter of air space with an exposure period of three weeks (caution: carbon disulphide is flammable). You may wish to also try para-dichloro-benzine crystals in much the same way.
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2. Do you have any information on the health problems caused by harmful chemicals used to kill insects? I am researching the chemical pesticides that have been applied to herbarium collections.

The insecticide methods in common use in Southeast Asia include: mixtures of formaldehyde and water vapour; various concoctions of gases, including phosgene; and cocktails of chemicals including DDT. It is difficult to obtain specific information on illness. For example, there are reports of respiratory problems of various kinds, and reportedly a branch of the National Archives in one Southeast Asian country had a section closed down because the staff were developing bladder/liver cancer (this in the early 1980s). For a number of reasons, not least among them political, there is no actual official reporting of incidents of this kind that I could discover. In virtually every case I have come across, staff are not wearing any protective clothing or effective masks and the chemicals are not contained in any fashion. It would be quite a task to diagnose the many people who have been affected over the years and to tie their health problems to the chemicals that they have used, especially given that many are working in conditions that include several species of mould.
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Security

1. You recommend that two ownership stamps should be placed on a book for security reasons. How should these be positioned?

Generally, ownership stamps should be made from vinyl or hard rubber, circular in shape, and no bigger than two centimeters in diameter. The ink should not be oily, should dry quickly and not transfer to the facing leaf. The stamp should clearly state the name of the institution and part of the address. The stamp should be placed on the inside front cover and on the verso (the reverse) of the title page in the center of the page.
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