Imperial War Museums is a national museum organisation with branches at five locations in England, three of which are in London. Founded as the Imperial War Museum in 1917, the museum was intended to record the civil and military war effort and sacrifice of Britain and its Empire during the First World War. The museum’s remit has since expanded to include all conflicts in which British or Commonwealth forces have been involved since 1914. As of 2012, the museum aims “to provide for, and to encourage, the study and understanding of the history of modern war and ‘wartime experience’.
Originally housed in the Crystal Palace at Sydenham Hill, the museum opened to the public in 1920. In 1924, the museum moved to space in the Imperial Institute in South Kensington, and finally in 1936, the museum acquired a permanent home that was previously the Bethlem Royal Hospital in Southwark. The outbreak of the Second World War saw the museum expand both its collections and its terms of reference, but in the post-war period, the museum entered a period of decline. The 1960s saw the museum redevelop its Southwark building, now referred to as Imperial War Museum London, which serves as the organisation’s corporate headquarters. During the 1970s, the museum began to expand onto other sites.
The museum’s collections include archives of personal and official documents, photographs, film and video material, and oral history recordings, an extensive library, a large art collection, and examples of military vehicles and aircraft, equipment, and other artifacts.
General admission is free to IWM London (although specific exhibitions require the purchase of a ticket).
Here you can see the ” Weeping Window ” – a cascade comprising several thousand handmade ceramic poppies seen pouring from a high window to the ground below. Weeping Window and Wave were originally presented as the two central sculptural elements of the installation Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red by artist Paul Cummins in 2014. Paul envisaged a sea of poppies sweeping around the grounds of the Tower of London, each one symbolizing a British and Colonial victim of the conflict. Since then the poppies have been traveling around the country and participating in different installations.
This one was one of the main reasons for my visit to the Museum.
The building has five floors with special exhibitions on each one.
On level 0 are the First World War Galleries and Witnesses to War.
You can discover the story of the First World War through the eyes of the British people and the Empire, both on the home front and the fighting fronts. On display are over 1,300 objects from IWM’s collections including weapons, uniforms, diaries, keepsakes, film and art.
Witnesses to War presents nine important objects spanning over a century, highlighting IWM’s role to tell the stories of conflict. This dramatic display features a Harrier jet and Spitfire plane, suspended above a V-2 rocket. Also on display is a T-34 tank and a 13-Pounder Gun from the First World War which became a memorial for the men who fought with it. Joining them is a Reuters Land Rover damaged by a rocket attack in Gaza.
Level 1 is representing the Second World War with the Turning points : 1934 – 1945 exhibit. You can explore key moments of the Second World War through people’s lives and the objects on display. Discover the role of strategic bombing and the fighting fronts in Russia and Africa, through to the D-Day landings.
One of the key elements is the Mitsubishi A6M fighter (the Zero fighter) who was flown by the Imperial Japanese Navy from the large airbase on Taroa, one of the Marshall Islands. It was badly damaged in combat. But Japan’s lack of resources and its problems supplying aircraft spare parts meant that it could not be repaired. Judged beyond fixing, the Zero was shoved off the runway into the jungle.
Level 2 is for the Peace and Security : 1945 – 2014 . From Britain and Europe after the Second World War through to the Cold War and the attack on the World Trade Center in 2001, Peace and Security reveals how conflicts have been fought and communities divided and re-joined in countries such as Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan from 1945 to the present day.
Level 3 is for special exhibitions which change in time.
Level 4 is for the Holocaust which tells the story of the Nazi persecution of the Jews and other groups before and during the Second World War. The origins and implementation of the ‘Final Solution’ are laid bare, with photographs, documents, artefacts, posters and film offering stark evidence of how persecution turned to mass extermination.
Not recommended for children under the age of 14.
And finally, on level 5 is one curious exhibition – Lord Ashcroft Gallery: Extraordinary Heroes. This display houses the world’s largest collection of Victoria Crosses, alongside a significant collection of George Crosses. Discover over 250 extraordinary stories of men, women and children who performed extraordinary acts of bravery to help other people in desperate need and who acted with courage and bravery. Pick up a kids’ stamper trail inside the gallery or use the interactive screens to explore seven themes including boldness, endurance, leadership and sacrifice with your family.
There are also two wonderful shops and two cafes to take a break or eat a sandwich.
We visit the museum in a really rainy day and couldn’t enjoy the yard, but it looked nice.
Our son, who was three years old when we went to the museum, is not very keen on guns and soldiers but enjoyed the visit a lot. There are many interactive games and the curators kept in my mind that the exhibitions have to entertain the little ones while their parents try to learn something. So don’t hesitate if you have a toddler or a kid, visit the Imperial War Museum, I promise you won’t be disappointed.
Here is the location :