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Documenting Tiananmen Square

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Twenty-five years ago, the world watched Beijing's Tiananmen Square, as demonstrations by Chinese citizens rallying for democracy drew the attention of Chinese military, with deadly results. 

Long after these events, it is through the materials created during those days—the correspondence, news reports, images, and ephemera—that scholars are able to study the motivations, events, and reactions to this tragic period in Chinese history. One collection available to researchers is the New York Public Library's Tiananmen Archive, which was put together as events unfolded in May and June 1989. 

Many of the materials in the Tiananmen Archive, now held in the Rare Books Division, were donated by Robin Munro, who was working in Beijing as a researcher for Asia Watch, a human rights group. Munro collected documents from around Tiananmen Square in the weeks before and after the protests and the government’s violent response. When he left Beijing in late June, he took his cache of materials with him. The sources he gathered, now held in the Library's Tiananmen Archive, include newsletters, buttons, placards, poetry, music, declarations, fax messages, correspondence, flags, postcards, and more.

Library staff saw enormous value and potential in Munro's documentary collection and continued to collect materials to complement the materials from Beijing. As a result, the Tiananmen Archive also includes propaganda distributed by the Chinese government during the uprising, as well as materials distributed here in New York and in other American cities, at rallies and events held in support of the Chinese demonstrators.

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