University Library at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis is making public more than 400 previously unseen black-and-white photographs of the historic student-led 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy movement. The library has digitized photographs taken by an IUPUI professor and added them to the library’s online digital collections.
It was April 15, 1989, when Hu Yaobang, the ousted general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, died in Beijing. Thousands of people went to Tiananmen Square to mourn his death. College students in Beijing universities soon turned the mourning into a grassroots movement that called for political reform, including an end to government corruption and a guarantee of freedom of speech. The movement ended abruptly with the killing of hundreds of protesting Chinese citizens during a military crackdown on June 4, 1989.
Thousands of media professionals, along with ordinary citizens, captured the events of the student-led movement on camera. Nevertheless, relatively few of these images survived since the Chinese government confiscated cameras and film in its crackdown on the movement and its leaders.
The photographs in the University Library digital collection, “Tiananmen Square, 1989,” are exhibited in memory of those who died during the movement. The collection can also serve as an educational tool for younger generations to learn about that period of history visually.
The photographer, Edgar Huang, a faculty member from the IU School of Informatics and Computing on the Indianapolis campus, was then a university instructor and a documentary photographer in Beijing. He traveled almost every day to different university campuses and different locations in Beijing, especially Tiananmen Square, to record with his Nikon F3 all the exciting, frustrating and sad moments.
After the government crackdown, some of Huang’s negatives were confiscated, but more than 90 percent of his 54 rolls of 36mm film were carefully hidden in different locations in Beijing to avoid possible raids.
“Many young people in China have no recollection of what happened in Beijing in the spring/summer of 1989,” Huang said. “These photographs will serve as a reminder of numerous ordinary Beijing citizens’ bravery and are exhibited in memory of those who died.
“Thanks to my beloved late wife, Lily Sun, who brought the negatives to the United States in 1994, these photographs are now possible to be exhibited to the public.”
Huang expressed appreciation for the work of IUPUI University Library staff, especially Kristi L. Palmer, Jennifer Ann Johnson and Ann Lys Proctor, in making the digitization of all the negatives and eventually this online exhibition possible.
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