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A Short Guide to the Imperial War Museum London


The Imperial War Museum (IWM) was founded in 1917 and was intended to record the war effort and effects of the First World War. The museum was original located at the Crystal Palace at Sydenham Hill, and opened to the public in 1920. In 1924 the museum moved to the Imperial Institute in South Kensington, and finally in 1936 the museum acquired its present home which was previously the Bethlem Royal Hospital in Southwark.

On 19 July 2014, to mark start of the Centenary of the First World War, a transformed Imperial War Museum London re-opened with new First World War Galleries and an extensive new atrium displaying large objects and terraces featuring key stories from the collections.


Large crowds gathered in anticipation and once through the doors the new atrium certainly didn’t disappoint, as well as the iconic objects including a Harrier jet, Spitfire plane and V2 rocket, certain objects such as jeeps overhang from the many terraces.

But the new Imperial War Museum is perhaps less concerned with just military hardware and more concerned with telling the stories of people’s experiences of modern war and conflict.


Nowhere is this better illustrated is the new First World War Galleries which tell the story of the First World War – how it started, why it continued and its global impact – through the lives of those who experienced it.


The new First World War Galleries feature over 1,300 objects which consider all aspects of the conflict, the highlights include Paul Nash’s painting of a battle-scarred landscape The Menin Road and the new trench experience which uses state of the art effects to produce a dramatic scenario.


Other major new exhibitions include Truth & Memory: British Art of the First World War –  featuring powerful  by some of Britain’s most significant First World War artists.


There is in IWM Contemporary: Mark Neville – a new body of work in response to the war in Afghanistan.


Other permanent exhibitions  include The Lord Ashcroft Gallery: Extraordinary Heroes, Secret War, A Family in Wartime. The Holocaust Exhibition  also re-opens along with our family exhibition Horrible Histories®: Spies.


The Holocaust Exhibition traces the Nazi persecution and murder of Europe’s Jews from 1933 to 1945. Photographs, documents, newspapers, artefacts, posters and film track the history of this persecution and genocide with toys, diaries, photograph albums, storybooks and hand-made mementos revealing people’s efforts to survive. Testimonies from 18 survivors bring a moving and haunting perspective.


There is free Admission to the Museum, although there may be some charges to some of the special exhibitions.

 For  more information visit the IWM website here

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