The Mission of Warehouse 13

Hey! I know that’s it’s been awhile, but I’ve had a lot that I’ve been doing lately, including beginning the label writing of my displays at the Medford Historical Society.  Yet now, without further ado, I give you my version of the mission statement of Warehouse 13 – one a bit more intense and academic than their standard “snag, bag, and tag” motto.

 

Warehouse 13 is a government-funded institution seeking to collect and secure artifacts of supernatural or super-scientific nature for the future of humanity.  The objects preserved in Warehouse 13’s collection are considered to be dangerous in some fashion, whether through downsides of use, or through continual overuse. The Warehouse maintains their collections in seclusion to protect the outside world from their contained power.  Similarly, Warehouse 13 seeks to protect the world from the evil use of its collections, periodically utilizing their objects  to prevent broad-scale disaster.  Through careful monitoring, and state-of-the-art, specialized preservation techniques, Warehouse 13 maintains the world’s only collection of powerfully dangerous artifacts.

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Warehouse 13 Mission: Pt 1. What is a Mission Statement?

Any successful museum and related institution needs a mission statement; the goal of which is to broadly define the nature of the institution.  A good mission statement will generally describe the museum generally: a sweeping overview of its collections, and its primary goals of their use.  However, their goal is not to enumerate every aspect of the institutional psyche – that is for the collection plan to completely flush out.  The most important thing about a mission statement is that it is short – one should consider it as the so-called ‘elevator pitch’ of the institution.  As such, mission statements are generally small paragraphs – approximately 3-4 sentences in my experience. [1]  Here are a few examples from places I have worked: [2]

Milwaukee Public Museum [3]

“The Milwaukee Public Museum, one of the largest in the United States, is a museum of human and natural history providing a dynamic and stimulating environment for learning, with something to excite and challenge visitors with a diversity of interests.” [4]

Wright Museum of Art [5]

“As a teaching museum, the mission of the Wright Museum of Art advances the educational goals of Beloit College.  Our principal purpose is to provide the college and local community with diverse opportunities to appreciate, interact with, and understand the visual arts through exhibitions, collections, and programming. The Wright promotes experiential learning through an engagement with art that is both visual and tactile. It also endeavors to promote a critical reading of art as it shapes our cultural and intellectual history.” [6]

Logan Museum of Anthropology [7]

“The Logan Museum of Anthropology is a teaching museum that engages the Beloit College community in learning about the world’s cultures, anthropology, and museology. Through our collections and programs we foster the integration of knowledge and experience to enrich liberal learning.” [8]

Medford Historical Society [9]

“Their purpose was to collect and preserve the history of this historic city, to correct the myths that had grown up over the years, to build a historical library, to collect the artifacts of local history, and to celebrate historical anniversaries.” [10]

*           *           *

Notice how each of these institutions has their own mission statement, tailored to the program.  None is carbon-copied, but each have similarities of the others.  First, notice how each are quite short – only the Wright Museum’s mission is considered ‘long,’ and even then it is only four sentences.  Additionally, each provide a list of so-called ‘action words’ (doing words) instead of invoking a passive.  These involve the basic tenants of  museum work: collecting, preserving, and exhibiting artifacts, but others crop in as well. Both Beloit museums stress teaching as a core aspect of their identity – important as academic museums whose primary goals are to provide professional training for future museum careers.  Furthermore, the Wright Museum stresses art in various forms and contexts – highlighting both its breadth of collection and need to differentiate from the Logan, whose focus is anthropological.

Meanwhile, the Milwaukee Public Museum takes careful note of their importance as an institutional by stressing its size and the importance of its collections, not to mention its broad collective scope of both “human and natural history” (emphasis mine).  In this manner, the Milwaukee Public Museums sets itself apart as an icon of museums, placing it on par with such well-known competitors such as the Field Museum in Chicago.

Turning mission statements on its head, the Medford Historical Society instead stresses the research-oriented goals of the institution and a very specific goal for their use – “to celebrate historical anniversaries.”  Medford makes no mention of exhibits in their mission, although they do have many displays on view.  Yet, the mission is to reflect the prime purposes of the institution, and currently the volunteer-run organization is more focused on matters of researching local history, especially debunking local myths, over that of exhibitions.  This is reflected in their mission, which currently emphasizes collection, preservation, and constructing an archive.

Clearly, mission and modus operandi should match.  If there is ever a point where they deviate, then one or the other should be updated.  The mission especially should be evaluated periodically.  These are the things that I must keep in mind as I construct my own facsimile of a mission statement for Warehouse 13.  On several instances, characters quip of their primary duties as: “snag, bag, and tag.”[11]  However, in practice there is so much more that the Warehouse is in charge of that their mission needs to be flushed out.  Tune in soon for my rendition!


[1] Often, they will be incorporated with other tidbits of information, especially on an “About” page on a website.  Of all the information that could be provided, only the initial summary serves as the mission statement.

[2] (in collections)

[3] I worked as a history intern between June and August of 2011 for my undergraduate minor in museum studies

[4] MPM. “About MPM.” MPM: The Milwaukee Public Museum. © 2013 Last Accessed July 18, 2013. http://www.mpm.edu/join-support/about-mpm

[5] I worked as a Gallery Ambassador from May 2010 to May 2012, with a semester off (Spring 2011) for study abroad

[6] Wright Museum of Art. “Mission and History.” Wright Museum of Art, as subsidiary of Beloit College.  © 2013 Beloit College.  Last accessed July 18, 2013. http://www.beloit.edu/wright/about/mission/

[7] Between 2008 and 2012, I volunteered at the Logan Museum on several occasions.  This included sorting and cleaning lithics as well as leading educational activities.  I also volunteered to conduct an exhibit in the fall of 2010

[8] Logan Museum of Anthropology. “Mission”. Logan Museum of Anthropology, as subsidiary of Beloit College.  © 2013 Beloit College. Last accessed July 18, 2013. http://www.beloit.edu/logan/about/mission/

[9] I am currently interning here as part of my museum studies graduate certificate program at Tufts University

[10] This was somewhat harder to find.  It is not labeled specifically, but when you read the home page, it explains what the goals of the founders were, which is pretty analogous to now.  The same wording is provided in the “About MHS” page.  It is worth noting that the website is being updated.

Medford Historical Society.“The Medford Historical Society.”  Last accessed July 18, 2013. http://www.medfordhistorical.org/

[11] For example, the pilot episode wherein Arty introduces Pete and Myka to the Warehouse.

Alexander, Jace (director). “Warehouse 13: Pilot.” Episode written by: Brent Mote, Jane Espenson, and David Simkins. First aired: July 7, 2009.

The Case of the Civil War Cases

Hello all,

I know that I said I would start posting about my favourite show, Warehouse 13, but I have to break in first with an update about my internship at the Medford Historical Society.  This summer, I have been doing a lot of work for them regarding their Civil War collection, even conducting research at the MOLLUS (Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States- a Civil War veterans’ organization for commissioned officers and their male descendants) archives housed at the Heritage Center in Philadelphia, PA.  It was really enlightening in terms of their organizational structure, if not about Medford’s branch specifically.  Sadly, while I was able to make some leads on some questions we at the Society have, I was not able to make any definite conclusions.

On my return, however, we began the daunting task of opening up the Civil War memorabilia cases (gifted to the Society in 1948 from the Grand Army of the Republic, or G.A.R., yet another Civil War veterans’ organization).  The cases are heavy and contain a seemingly random assortment of objects (as you can see below):

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(and before you ask the labels are, more often than not, completely unreadable)

These objects, laid out aesthetically, with no eye towards interpretation, had all been WIRED in, piece by piece, using copper.  These wires have since embedded themselves into the wooden backing of the case or, in the cases of most of the soft lead bullets, into the artifact itself.  The buttons are even more of a nightmare, since their shafts have been forced into the wood, almost as if they were sewn into the wood using the metal wire.  And of course, with such a variety of objects contained in an enclosed space, things have been reacting horribly; most metals are rusting, if not completely oxidized already, the labels (as I mentioned above) are almost (or completely) disintegrating, and black mold runs rampant.  Thus, we have been wearing gloves and surgical masks throughout the whole process.

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(I’m not wearing gloves in this photo only because I needed the dexterity of my hands to remove the screws holding the frame for the glass in place.  I assure you that I put them on as soon as the frames were removed)

And finally, there is the issue of how they were mounted on the wall.  They literally hang by (an admittedly rather thick) wire on hook screws, holding them to the wall in the alcove.  Upon removing the first pair of panels, we learned that the wall had been painted after the cases were hung, which means that the artifacts have been exposed to the fumes, which has not helped their deterioration.

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Now that the pieces are being removed, this is at the forefront of our minds, and we are working carefully to ensure the survival of these delicate items, which span from metal work (like buttons and bullets), to fabric, paper, and even natural items like chestnuts (no kidding, one panel had 3!!!)  Obviously, storage will be an issue as we continue the project, but my site supervisor has a plan involving compartmentalized blue boxes from Gaylord, so we should be well-prepared.

In the long run, the items from each panel will not be kept together, but rather sorted into groups, depending on the types of objects that they are.  For now, however, panels are being kept separate, at least until each object has been entered into PastPerfect, which itself will take a long time. There are a total of 7 cases, with 13 panels of these items, and so far only three of the panels have been emptied.  the rest are still hanging, ready to be removed.

Once the panels have been taken down and the objects are all removed, we will re-cover the back of the cases with a new, lighter, backing.  the plan is to then create temporary displays regarding Medford, which can be changed out periodically.  Civil War will still be present in the exhibitions, but on a smaller scale.  Currently, the plan is to keep a small section of the alcove devoted to Medford in the Civil War.  A large case in the main exhibition hall, which already offers a Civil War display, would be re-done to focus on specific elements of the Civil War; likely what the soldiers carried.  In this way, the Medford Historical Society can more aptly focus on their mission of maintaining and showcasing Medford’s city history.

Your Invitation to Endless Wonder

Those of you who have been following along with my blog will note that a) I post infrequently and b) I tend to post from my honours thesis from my senior year at Beloit College.  Mainly, this is because I am intensely proud of that thesis and wish to share it with you, secondarily because I have been intensely busy with working my way through graduate school, and tertiarily because I have had an idea for a post that I’m still doing research before I post.  However, this summer I find myself with a little more time on my hands – internships and intensive online Latin courses aside.  Therefore, I want to branch out a bit.  While that research-oriented post has yet to be completed, I wish to talk a bit about my favourite television show, Warehouse 13.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Warehouse 13, it is a SyFy Original series.  This show is fantastic in all of its nerdy elements, and especially interesting for museum (and Classics!) – oriented people.  To put it simply, Warehouse 13 is what happens when you combine all that is awesome about the trilogy of Indiana Jones with steampunk.  Yes, you read that right – steampunk Indy.  Don’t believe me ? Check out the trailer:

<iframe width=”420″ height=”315″ src=”http://www.youtube.com/embed/_BPvZ5LBsVQ&#8221; frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen>

Awesome, right? Here’s a video introduction (SPOILER ALERT):

Warehouse 13 is now in a season 4.5 (yes, they have an intermediary season).  Unfortunately, SyFy has only renewed it for one more season, making the fifth its final one! 😦

The basic premise of the show is the concept of ‘historical cooties.’ For those who are not on the up-and-up regarding material culture, historical cooties is the difference between a simple white dress and the one (in)famously worn by Marilyn Monroe.  It’s why Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” jacket was purchased for $1.8 million and why Sheldon Cooper from Big Bang Theory freaked out over a napkin.  What this show proposes is that, far from being just perceived differences in the objects, these ‘historical cooties’ actually imbue the object with mystical properties (aka Indiana Jones-type objects). Similarly, other objects on the show proof the adage that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic (i.e. the steampunk element).  References to historical figures abound, such as: Hatshepsut, Alexander the Great, Nikola Tesla, and Philio Farnsworth (he invented the television).  All of these objects are “snagged, bagged, and tagged” by the main characters, and housed in a humongous government Warehouse (I’m not going to tell you the significance of 13!), which is located seemingly randomly in South Dakota.  This way, the world is protected from certain destruction by these objects.

Each object has an upside (the reason why they are initially used) and a downside (which is almost ALWAYS worse than the upside).  A hilarious example of an object mentioned in passing is that of Pavlov’s Bell, which has the ability to call dogs to you, but you will drool uncontrollably for 24 hours as a result of using it.  As you can see, the use of such objects created a layered morality that the characters often have to navigate carefully while on the job.  While it takes on a “monster of the week” feel, there are multi-episode story arcs that keep the show layered and interesting.  What I find the most interesting, however, is how closely it mirrors actual museum work (minus the exhibitions).  Because these objects are, by the essence they are imbued with, ‘alive,’ special care has to be taken for each object – especially relating to how they are stored because some objects need to be separated to keep from reacting and have different preservation needs.  Thus, the Warehouse has a caretaker (read: collections manager/registrar) and its own database to keep the objects in check.  They also have special “conservation” techniques to keep the objects from getting out of control.  And then, of course, there’s the nickname that Arty gives the Warehouse: ‘America’s Attic.” (I wonder how the Smithsonian feels about losing their title?) Arty, maybe a better nickname would be “The World’s Attic, since the objects span all of human existence.

As you can see, I sincerely love this show, so I am going to devote several posts to it, over the coming weeks.  Keep an eye out for them!

Welcome…to Warehouse 13!

 

Works Cited:

Divirgilio, Andrea. “Most expensive celebrity memorabilia.” BornRich: Home of Luxury. last updated: April 3, 2012. http://www.bornrich.com/expensive-celebrity-memorabilia.html

OdyWorld. “Official Trailer for Warehouse 13 VOSTFR.” YouTube video, posted August 21, 2009. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_BPvZ5LBsVQ

SyFy. “Best of Warehouse 13: Endless Wonder.” YouTube video, posted: April 4, 2013. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YnMT0LTyM-g

usafrmajor. “Big Bang Theory – Sheldon and the Leonard Nimoy Napkin” YouTube video, posted April 26, 2012. Original episode: Ep. 2.11, “The Bath Item Gift Hypothesis.” First aired: December 15, 2008.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eOWazhuRyME

Undergraduate Honors Thesis II C: Pt. 2

The Prophecies of Neferti (Papyrus Westcar, Dynasty 18) involves a wise individual lamenting the injustices of the world. Set in the court of King Snefru, one immediately notices similarities not only to The Eloquent Peasant but also to the Three Tales of Wonder.  What separates this story from the other two is that the sage Neferti is neither a wronged commoner nor one whose presence in court merely serves to amuse a bored pharaoh. Instead he is summoned to the royal court to prophesize the future (Lichtheim 1973:140).

I shall describe what is before me,/I do not foretell what does not come:/Dry is the river of Egypt,/One crosses the river on foot;/One seeks water for ships to sail on,/Its course having turned into shoreland./Shoreland will turn into water,/Watercourse back into shoreland./Southwind will combat northwind,/Sky will lack the single wind (Lichtheim 1973:141).

Unfortunately for King Snefru, prospects are not good.  Instead of Egypt being peaceful and orderly, Neferti belies a sinister future in which everything is turned topsy-turvy (Lichtheim 1973:140-143). As the

Sage’s exaggerated speech suggests this is a prime example of the literary topos of “natural distress” (Lichtheim 1973:139). In the quote above, Neferti provides particular examples of what will come to pass; namely, the entire geography, so central to Ancient Egyptian culture, will completely reverse, causing a massive upheaval in its peoples’ way of life.  Somehow, the “Asiatics” (Lichtheim 1973:140) which are mentioned at the beginning of the story, are the reason for the upheaval, which is not addressed until, “a king [comes] up from the South,/Ameny, the justified, by name” (Lichtheim 1973:143).  In fact, this sentence provides an important piece of evidence to show that this prophecy was written much later than its setting.  “Ameny” is referred to as “the justified,” which in ancient Egyptian means that he is dead.

A Dispute between a Man and His Ba typifies Lichtheim’s final tri-partite definition of “didactic” literature. One of the most famous Middle Egyptian texts, it is also the most controversial.  Maintained solely on one fragmentary papyrus (Papyrus Berlin), dating from between 1991 and 1802 BCE in the Twelfth Dynasty (Lichtheim 1973:163), the first part is missing.  Considering its subject matter, there has been much scholarly debate on its meaning[1].  What is clear, however, is the basic storyline of the remainder of the papyrus.  The known portion begins with a man arguing with his ba, which has just threatened to leave him (Lichtheim 1973:164). The man laments life and makes known his desire to be buried in the West in the proper fashion (Lichtheim 1973:164-165).  As he explains, “If my ba listens to me [without malice], its heart in accord with me, it shall be happy.  I shall make it reach the West like one who is in his tomb, whose burial a survivor tends” (Lichtheim 1973:165).  He further enumerates on all of the benefits allotted to the ba of a person who has been properly buried, in an attempt to entice it into complacency.  However, the ba refutes this tactic by offering two rather puzzling parables in an attempt to make the man reconsider his desire for death.  In response, the man laments, emphatically stating repetitively that, “Lo, my name reeks” and that society is destitute (Lichtheim 1973:166).  “Brothers are mean,” he complains, “The friends of today do not love” (Lichtheim 1973:166).  In any case, he is certain that “Death is before me today” (Lichtheim 1973:168), a poetic construction which finally serves to convince the ba to stay with him, despite its misgivings.

Bibliography:

de Buck, A. The Papyrus Westcar.  Egyptian Reading Book, 2nd Ed.  Leiden: Nederlands Instituut voor het Nabije Oosten. 1963

Lichtheim, Miriam. Ancient Egyptian Literature Vol. I: The Old and Middle Kingdoms.  Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press. 1973.

References for Translation:

de Buck, A.  The Papyrus Westcar.  Egyptian Reading Book, 2nd Ed.  Leiden: Nederlands Instituut voor het Nabije Oosten. 1963.

Gardiner, Sir Alan.  Egyptian Grammar: Being an Introduction to the Study of Hieroglyphs, Third Edition.  Oxford, UK: Griffith Insitute. 1957.

Hoch, James E. Middle Egyptian Grammar.  Toronto, Canada: Benben Publications. 1997.

Faulkner, Raymond O. A Concise Dictionary of Middle Egyptian.  Oxford: Griffith Institute. 1962.

Shennun, David. English-Egyptian Index of Faulkner’s Concise Dictionary of Middle Egyptian.  Malibu, CA: Undena Publications. 1977.


[1] This paper will not delve into the scholarly discussion, but interested parties are encouraged to research all

commentaries on their own, as Lichtheim suggests (1973:163).

Undergraduate Honors Thesis II C: Pt. 1

After looking at a few of the tales that Lichtheim classifies as “prose,” one must examine literature that she defines as “didactic.” Consider first The Instruction of Amenemhet I to his son Sesostris I, preserved on the Papyrus Millengren (Lichtheim 1973:136) — circa 1550-1292 BCE.  Within Lichtheim’s tri-partite definition of “didactic,” this story clearly falls within the category of “father to son.” The tale laments the actual regicide of King Amenemhet I in the thirtieth year of his reign (Lichtheim 1973:135), although it was obviously written after his death, perhaps by a scribe at the behest of Sesostris I, son of Amenemhet I.  It seeks to warn Sesostris against committing the same blunders that Amenemhet himself committed.  Chief among these is to, “[b]eware of subjects who are nobodies/Of whose plotting one is not aware.  Trust not a brother, know not a friend,/Make no intimates, it is worthless” (Lichtheim 1973:136).  Simply put, Amenemhet I cautions his son against trusting anyone, for everyone is secretly conspiring against him.  As Amenemhet reminds Sesostris, he was a good king.  He says, “I gave to the beggar, I raised the orphan/I gave success to the poor as to the wealthy; But he who ate my food raised opposition,/He whom I gave my trust used it to plot” (Lichtheim 1973:136).  Amenemhet then explains the events surrounding his death, namely that he was betrayed by his own guards (Lichtheim 1973:137).  He had no time to defend himself, because he was roused from sleep just before being assassinated.  Surprise in the night is, of course, the only way that the task of killing a pharaoh could succeed, because he is considered to be Horus- a living god (James 2005:105).  This instruction epitomizes the genre of “inscription motifs” which list positive moral attributes, because it explains why Amenemhet was a good ruler in life and therefore why he deserves an afterlife.  Thus, the last few lines of this instruction are very important, because they ensure that Sesostris would take over the throne in place of the conspirators.  In this way, “[k]ingship is again what it was in the past!” (Lichtheim 1973:138). Order in the sense of ma’at as represented by the royal family will be maintained, triumphing over chaos as represented by the conspirators.

Contrasted with Amenemhet’s Instruction is that of The Eloquent Peasant, a work preserved on four different Middle Kingdom fragmentary papyri, which together make up the full story (Lichtheim 1973:169).  Lichtheim defines The Eloquent Peasant as “didactic” because it is identified as an admonition; that is, a speech by a learned sage to individuals who are committing some injustice.  In the case of this story, the learned sage is a peasant named Khun-Anup, who rebukes both the steward Nemptynakht for his evildoing (Lichtheim 1973:171) and the magistrate for not fulfilling his duties as a justice.  In so doing, he appeals to the magistrate nine times, ostensibly getting nowhere on each occasion. Because the magistrate and His Majesty are so taken by Khun-Anup’s eloquence, they pretend to ignore his pleas, thereby inducing him to stay and petition further while secretly caring for the peasant and his family through an intermediary (Lichtheim 1973:173). Thus, the peasant becomes more and more desperate with each subsequent petition, until he finally threatens to invoke the god Anubis in order to obtain justice (Lichtheim 1973:182).  This ironic turn of events is what leads Lichtheim to suggest that the tale, beyond a discourse on the necessity for justice, is “…a parable on the utility of fine speech” (1973:169).  In her opinion, the basic message is that through the use of beautiful diction and persistence, people will always receive their just rewards. In the case of The Eloquent Peasant, the evil steward Nemptynakht is ultimately stripped of everything of worth, and his possessions are given to the peasant Khun-Anup as retribution.  Thus, the story has a just ending, and ma’at is restored (Lichtheim 1973:182).

Bibliography:

de Buck, A. The Papyrus Westcar.  Egyptian Reading Book, 2nd Ed.  Leiden: Nederlands Instituut voor het Nabije Oosten. 1963

Lichtheim, Miriam. Ancient Egyptian Literature Vol. I: The Old and Middle Kingdoms.  Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press. 1973.

References for Translation:

de Buck, A.  The Papyrus Westcar.  Egyptian Reading Book, 2nd Ed.  Leiden: Nederlands Instituut voor het Nabije Oosten. 1963.

Gardiner, Sir Alan.  Egyptian Grammar: Being an Introduction to the Study of Hieroglyphs, Third Edition.  Oxford, UK: Griffith Insitute. 1957.

Hoch, James E. Middle Egyptian Grammar.  Toronto, Canada: Benben Publications. 1997.

Faulkner, Raymond O. A Concise Dictionary of Middle Egyptian.  Oxford: Griffith Institute. 1962.

Shennun, David. English-Egyptian Index of Faulkner’s Concise Dictionary of Middle Egyptian.  Malibu, CA: Undena Publications. 1977.

Exhibition Planning

Hello All,

Sorry that I have not posted in some time, but I have been hard at work in class!  Also, I have been working on a special post, which I’m doing research for, so look out for that in the coming weeks.  To placate you all, though, I wish to share what I have been working on in my Exhibition Planning class at Tufts.  The students in this course are tasked with designing, researching, and installing an exhibition by the end of the semester in the Tufts University Art Gallery’s Koppelman Gallery (on the lower level).  This semester, students have been granted access to the Merriam collection at the Boston Public Library, which contains the singular collection of illustrator Boris Artzybasheff’s images.  these include the images he created for children’s books between the 1920s and the 1930s, and which are the foci of this exhbibiton.

We have been hard at work at our proposals.  First, we were to present our own individual proposals, based on what we would like to see.  This was turned in a few weeks ago (I will be putting mine up on the “Previous Work page of this blog soon). From those, we were placed into small groups to create a group proposal, which we will present to the class tonight! The next step will be to combine these all together to create the single proposal that we will pursue for the actual exhibition (I hope it’s ours!)

Here is the Prezi presentation we created for tonight.  I hope you agree that it’s awesome! 🙂

http://prezi.com/s0_onm6yyica/final-presentation/?kw=view-s0_onm6yyica&rc=ref-5416452