“ The Imperial War Museum is a museum in London featuring military vehicles, weapons, war memorabilia, a library, a photographic archive, and an art collection of 20th century and later conflicts, especially those involving Britain, and the British Empire. This location is the headquarters of a 5-branch system. The other locations are listed at the end of the page. The museum is partially subsidized by the government, but also relies on individual contributions. The Museum features military vehicles, weapons, war memorabilia, a library, a photographic archive, and an art collection. Items in the Museum are not necessarily British, and include other nations at war at the time, primarily France, the United States, Germany, Italy, and Russia. Its vast collection contains over 15,000 paintings, drawings, and sculptures, and over 30,000 posters. According to the Museum, its collection includes "objects ranging from aircraft, armoured fighting vehicles and naval vessels to uniforms, badges, personal equipment, and medals and decorations; documents, both British and foreign; printed books comprising a national reference library of over 155,000 items; 120 million feet of cine film and over 6,500 hours of video tape; over 6 million photographs and photographic negatives." The grandeur of its collection has transformed the museum into an archive and art museum, as well. Outside the main entrance of the museum are mounted two 15" naval guns from former Royal Navy warships. The left-hand gun was mounted in HMS Ramillies, a Revenge-class battleship, from 1916 to 1941. The right-hand gun was mounted in another Revenge-class battleship, HMS Resolution, from 1915 to 1938, and then in the monitor HMS Roberts, where it took part in the D-Day bombardments. „
I always love museum, especially historical museum. There is something about being surrounded by the past, and feels like being a part of it. This museum is one of those. And has been one of my favourite since I went there last year.
This museum is located in the central London. It is very easy to get to this place, all I did was to take the tube and get off at the Elephant and Castle station. It's just 10 minutes walk from there. Or if you prefer bus, it would stop even closer. It also has a pretty distinctive facade, with big cannons in its garden and big "Imperial War Museum" sign, you wouldn't miss it.
When you are inside, it is just like taking a time machine. You would see the most impressive both authentic and replica of weapons and machinery used in the war. There would be a lot of informations, and stories not only about the war itself, but everything else related to the war. The espionage, the war crime, the victims of the war, and my highlights of that day: the holocaust room.
It was chilling and scary being in there. But at the same time, it is quite understandable why this horrible story needs to be preserve and commemorate. This is one big and important part of human history, a reminder of how bad a war and people could be. And it is important to be taught to the next and next generation.
For lunch, they have a cafe inside the museum. I had my own lunch box, so I went outside and sat in the nice quiet garden next to the museum and enjoy the day before going back to the museum to continue my journey to the past.
This is definitely a great museum to go to, alone, or with family. It is a place where parents could teach their children the greatness of this country, and the same time educate them about values and history.
This review is of the Imperial War Museum in London, a military museum marking the contribution made by the armed forces over the centuries.
I visited the museum in early April 2012, and for anyone interested in going, it's best to make a visit sooner rather than later as from August 2012 many of the large objects are being moved out, and in January 2013 the museum will be closed for six months for a major renovation.
Like many other of the London museums, entrance is free of charge to everyone (some special exhibits have an extra charge) because of a grant from the Department of Culture, although donations can be made, or a guide book purchased to help them (the museum is a charity) with the costs of running such a superb museum. Making the museum free of charge has made a large difference to the number of visitors, up from 660,000 ten years ago to nearly 1,100,000 last year.
There is a large gun outside the front of the museum which helps identifies you've found the right place, which is located near to Lambeth North tube station, and not far from the Elephant & Castle and Waterloo stations. There are also many buses which go by the museum and some nearby bike racks which are part of the Mayor's bike hire scheme, sponsored by Barclays. There is no parking at the museum, other than street parking, which is expensive and the museum is inside the congestion charge zone. So most visitors will probably opt for public transport to get here.
Entering the museum you can see there are a number of floors, which a large number of bigger exhibits such as planes supported from the ceiling, tanks, large guns. The context and description of each of these larger items is provided and the children at the museum seemed to really enjoy wandering around these.
On my visit I went to a number of the galleries, starting on the lower floor, which is a look at the wars which Britain has been involved with over the last century. There is a reconstruction of a World War One trench and area where the blitz is recreated to help understanding in a more visual way, but there are also a large number of exhibits and displays to walk around. Most of these were well signed, although it was sometimes hard to match up the number on the information panel with the item in the display cases to ascertain more about it, but overall it was an interesting visit. Visitors are guided around so they discover more about these wars in roughly a date order, so starting at the First World War, then the reasons for the Second World War, then the war itself, and then more later conflicts such as the Falklands and Iraq.
I visited the museum on a Sunday and so there were many families and visitors generally, making viewing a little difficult in places, so I didn't see too much of the Secret War exhibition, which was a look at spies and espionage throughout recent times. They had a display of James Bond type items that the agents would use to help them spy, and although this wasn't a large display area, it was worth visiting because of the fascinating array of objects to be seen.
Back up to the ground floor, there was an exhibition there called "A Family in Wartime", which looks at the realities of living in a war, not just the obvious dangers of being bombed, but also the practicalities, such as food, clothing and transport. The displays in this area were quite visual, and younger visitors seemed to be enjoying this, and I heard a few older visitors explaining to their relatives their memories of war. Certainly given that, it showed the exhibition was succeeding in its intention to get people talking.
One area that under 16s were advised not to go was on one of the top floors, which was a look at the Holocaust. There were some horrendous images, sometimes very visible images which were directly shocking, such as the treatment of the Jews, and indeed other minorities, in the concentration camps. However one of the most powerful images to me was of a letter which a mother had written to her son, her only child, who had been taken from her. She wrote to him, expectantly, until one day her letter was returned to her with "not at this address". She must have known his fate, as he had indeed died, but receiving back that letter which would have been written with such love must have been an horrific moment for the lady, and the image of this was haunting.
There Holocaust exhibition was haunting, and most people treated it with great respect, although there were a few people shouting and messing about in the area near some of the most poignant and upsetting displays. It did neither them, or the very light touch of staffing provided in the museum, any credit. The museum proudly announces how many volunteers it gets, and how it can't use all of them, so if anyone was willing to help in this exhibit, it might be useful.
However, that point aside, the exhibition was thought provoking and fascinating, a reminder to all. A significant number of people looked quite downcast when leaving the gallery, so its effect was clear, let alone those who emotions were private and not visible.
From tragedy to bravery, on the top floor of the museum is the collection of the world's largest number of Victoria Crosses, and a large number of George Crosses. The gallery is named after Lord Ashcroft, the sometimes controversial figure, but he has donated 5 million pounds to help assembly this gallery, and his money has helped remind visitors of some many of the fascinating stories of those awarded these medals. He must be rightly proud of what he has achieved here in conjunction with the museum, having collected all of these medals, and then made them available for display.
In summary therefore, the museum was fascinating and too much for me to see in one visit, so I'll make a repeat visit before they close for six months at the beginning of next year. They suggest a couple of hours to half a day for a visit, and to see everything, half a day seems about right. There's enough for kids to do to keep them occupied for a reasonable period of time, and there's the rest of London to explore nearby should they get bored.
Also on site are a restaurant, which is reasonably priced given the location, and a shop, which is a bit more expensive, but at least the funds are used to help the museum. There are toilets available in the museum, and the museum is also suitable for disabled visitors. But anyone needing more help need only ask the staff at the museum.
Definitely highly recommended, and I noted there was no attempt to glorify war, indeed if anything, it served as a reminder of just how futile war is.
Yesterday I took a family trip to The imperial war museum and it was absolutely fantastic.
Admission is free, although you can buy tickets to exhibitions that are on at the time.At the moment it is the horrible histories trenches and the ministry of food. For an adult ticket for both it is £7.90 and a joint ticket for children is £4.00.
There are 4 floors packed with artifacts and reading material.This includes conflicts through the years, the trenches, vehicles and aircraft, ministry of food and a very moving exhibition of the Holocaust.
There is a shop that sells souvenirs, although the prices are quite high.There is also a cafe that serves hot/cold meals, drinks etc, that is reasonably priced (£1.50 pot of tea).
The whole museum cannot realisically be seen in one day, however you easily spend 5 hours in there and see a great deal of things.
Opening hours are 10am-5pm.Tickets can be booked online.
Parking is a bit of an issue, as there is no car park, so you have to find pay and display places.Also the museum is the congestion charge zone.
Disabled parking is availiable.A space can be booked for the day if you ring up and book in advance.
The day as a whole is extremely interesting and moving if history is aof interest to you.
I would say that it would appeal to children over 10, as the exhibtions are quite in depth, and the holocaust is very harrowing.Children under 5 are not allowed into that part.
All in all a very interesting day out, and great value for money.
We visited the Imperial War Museum as part of our London holiday. The museum is quite easy to find, around five minutes taxi ride from Big Ben, London Eye and the Houses of Parliament and is opposite the Days Hotel Waterloo. Its nearest tube station is Lambeth North, around 10 minutes walk from the museum.
It is an unmistakable and grandiose building, its large green St.Paul's Cathedral-esque dome dominates the local area and makes the museum quite easy to find! It is unmissable due to the two enormous guns outside the building!
Admission to the museum is free, as is the case with all of the major museums in London. Visitors are asked to make a donation, and i can assure you £5 is a tiny price to pay for what you get! On arrival security will search your bags so anyone with a bag shouldnt keep too much in there, otherwise you may be waiting around for a while!
On arrival you are also given the opportunity to purchase guide books and this is something i would definitely recommend, there is so much to see and do in the museum and the guide book really helps and gives background information on the objects you are seeing and why they are important.
The most striking memory from our visit was the Holocaust Exhibit. I have a particular interest in World War 2 and, despite the horrific stories, I have always found it difficult to truly come to terms with the enormity of the holocaust as it was just numbers to me and didnt really have a human face if that makes sense. I have read both Mein Kampf and the Diary of Anne Frank, and therefore the Holocaust Exhibit provided me with a very interesting experience.
I must say, it is one of the most emotional and powerful things I have ever seen in my life. The exhibit begins pre World War 2 and chronicles Hitler's rise to power, changes in Germany, persecution of Jews, Crystal Night and the slope toward the 'Final Solution'. The Holocaust Exhibit gives visitors a massive insight into the Holocaust and its messages hit home so hard. It is a fascinating, powerful, emotional and often disturbing exhibit that will leave a mark on anyone who visits it. It is an absolute must see, and is definitely something I will never forget. We spent two hours in the exhibit and could have spent a lot longer there. You really cannot underestimate the power and lasting impression of this exhibit that is so immaculately put together and is a real testament to the museum and its curators.
Away from the holocaust exhibit there is a huge range of war items, stories and memorabilia, some of which are hundreds of years old. It is a huge and detailed museum that has literally thousands of things to see - visitors are able to sit inside a real tank, walk through a war time trench, see war time planes and even touch the real bronze German Eagle from the Reichstag - one of the iconic items of history. We could not find the German Eagle at first so asked one of the attendants who was friendly, knowledgeable and polite.
Visitors could spend an entire day in the Imperial War Museum and still not see everything they would like to see. There are hundreds of photo opportunities (although not inside the holocaust exhibit as its not allowed, presumably to show respect) within the museum, there is a cafe and thankfully there are lots of places to sit as the museum can be very tiring!
The Imperial War Museum is absolutely superb, so well put together and you literally cannot look anywhere without seeing something interesting. For visitors who go to the Holocaust Exhibit, i can guarantee you wont be the same coming out as you were going in - an absolute must see and is more powerful than any of the tanks on show.
I must say that I'm generally not too into History unless it's been in a film, but my girlfriend is doing an MA in History, and seeing as I found the prospect of looking at a bunch of huge guns quite alluring, we decided to go to the Imperial War Museum.
The first thing to remember is that it is free to get into the museum, but they do accept donations of course. Once you go past the foyer, you'll see a brilliant opening display, which has massive guns and cannons, each having a panel at the side of it which explains what it is and how it was used in the war. From here you can take the stairs or use lifts to navigate through a pretty extensive set of exhibits. Here are my two favourites:
Wars: There is a very comprehensive travelogue of every notable war that has taken place in the last 100 years. Obviously, WW1 and WW2 are given the most extensive coverage, but there is also a great Vietnam exhibit as well. Each exhibit has tonnes of weapons, items and outfits used in the war, and again placcards are placed everywhere to really give you some great insight into things.
The Holocaust: by far the best thing in the Museum, this is a very detailed examination of the ideology and methodology behind the most horrific attrocity of modern times. There are plenty of video screens which have interviews with the survivors, and also lots of miniature displays recreating the concentration camps. This display is probably not suitable for younger kids though, and it can be quite an emotional experience, but it's one that's an absolute must if you come here.
Whether you're a history buff or not, this is an interesting day out. Also, there's an ice cream van parked a few feet from the entrance!
Imperial War Museum (London) -Remember the war days !!
I heard about this museum umpteen times from my friends but it was only recently (a month back) I called on this fantastic museum.
The museum is free like most of the other museums in London and is located in a vantage point close to Lambeth tube station. I was really amazed with the well laid models and replica right from the entrance. The Super marine Spitfire, the big tank, German V-2 rocket, submarine and missile were just too good.
I really believe this museum has achieved its mission of educating people about great wars and the way they have influenced our lives. You can really find a vast collection of weapons, models, photos and films as reminiscent depicting war life.
The museum exhibition brings about the letters written during war time and are really moving as they provide true reflection of the state of life during wars. I would specially recommend the Holocaust Exhibition as it uses historical materials like documents, uniforms, toys posters and to tell the story in an innovative way. However this is not allowed for children under 14.
I also loved the the collection of British painting and the art of Second World War represented. I did get a chance to get into the Blitz Experience and really find it fascinating as it allows you to walk through a section of street that resembled the bombed town. It was an amazing set as it almost replicates the vivid war life scene.
Overall if you are really interested in exploring war life this is the best place to be in!! I would recommend anyone visiting London to pay a visit here.
I recently visited the Imperial war museum in London with my Nephew and had a great day out. With so much to see and lots to do this is a fantastic museum for adults and kids. The imperial war museum is located on Lambeth road in London and is about 5 minutes walk from Lambeth and Elephant & Castle tube stations (northern line). The museum is open 7 days a week 10am - 6pm (except 24-26 December) and admission is free.
Set back off the main road, the museum has a courtyard to walk through with a navel gun on display. My nephew couldn't believe how big it was and I have to say it is an impressive display before you even enter the museum. Going through the main entrance hall as with most museums these days your bags will be searched, here you can get an audio headset and make a contribution to the museum (if you wish).
Whats in the Imperial War Museum
There is so much to see inside the museum itself so leave plenty of time if you wish to see everything in one day. In the main hall has a display of aircrafts (hanging from the ceiling), tanks, guns and bombs. In other parts of the museum you can see exhibitons on World war I & II, holocust, art galleries, secret war and conflicts since 1945. When I visited with my Nephew we spent out time in the secret war and world war I & II exhibitons.
At the information desk inside the main foyer you can pick up a quiz for children to do as they go around and if they finish it they get a certificate. I did this with my nephew and it was focused on the secret war and he had to pretend to be a secret agent so he was in his element. I think this is a great way to make children look, read and follow the clues of whats in the exhibition. There was lots to see including pictures, letters, personal items, and equipment which was used for secret coding.
World War I & II
I would highly recommend these exhibitions for children. There are weapons, photos, uniform, gas masks, models and much more, but I think the most interesting part was the trenches and the air-raid shelters.
The trenches - in this you walk through a trench, there are models of soldiers (injured and fighting), guns and grenade sounds so you really get a sense of what it was really like down there. My nephew loved this we had to go through over and over again.
The air-raid shelter - we had to queue for about 20 minutes to go into this but it was worth the wait. You get to go into an air-raid shelter and over the speaker system you hear planes flying over and bombing the city, once this has finished you walk out of the shelter and on a tour you're shown what it may have looked like after a bombing attack. Again this really give you a sense of what it must have been like during the war and I think is a great way of getting children to understand this.
Cafe and shop
As you can spend so long in the museum it's nice to get a drink and a bit to eat during the day. There is a large cafe in the museum which I thought was reasonably priced which sells a selection of drinks, sandwiches, cakes and biscuits. There is also a shop on site but I didn't get to visit this so can't comment on it.
Overall, I would recommend a visit to the Imperial War museum there is so much to see and I'm definitely going to go back and visit other sections which I didn't get to see while I was there. Before you go it would be an idea to look at the website to see if there are any special exhibitions on (you may need to pay for these). I think its a good museum to take kids to, there's lots to keep them amused and my nephew said as we were leaving "that's the best museum I've ever been in".
Imperial War Museum
As someone born in the Eighties, the 2 world wars seem like a very long time ago, and something that I can not really relate to. I do hold an interest in the wars as it is something which grabbed and held my attention when we studied the topics in school. The museum however, brings it to life!
The museum has several large floors, all split into differing areas of war and the military in general. From the trenches of the first world war, to espionage and the MI5 and MI6 and to the hard-hitting floor dedicated to the holocaust.
Upon entering, you are greeted by tanks, submarines and planes, the majority of which you are able to touch, but (unfortunately) generally not enter.
From here, you have to decide where to head. In all seriousness, you could probably spend five hours a day for a week trying to see, read and experience all the exhibitions, and still not see it all. The amount of information held in this place is truly phenomenal.
Every aspect of WWII is covered, from the beaches of France, to life in Britain during war, to the war in Japan, amongst many others, are covered in colossal detail. Some of the stories, facts and figures are mind-boggling and it really hits home what many men (and indeed women) sacrificed in order to fight for their country.
The information and exhibtions aren't just 'see-and-read' exhibitions either. Virtually all areas of the museum have videos, sound recordings and computers to search through reams of documents and texts, as well as the Terrible Trenches exhibition even offering the chance to have a hands on (and clothes-on!) experience.
Due to the aforementioned information overload, time constraints meant I whizzed round the exhibitions which interested me most, with the aim of finishing up on the top floor - based on the Holocaust.
Here, I found it impossible to 'whizz' round. It was truly humbling and saddening. I had studied the Holocaust in school, but the enormity to which it happened only became semi-fathomable upon seeing this exhibition. At points it was even tear-inducing and painful to read.
It's almost a story which is laid out for you to follow, starting with Hitler's prejudices and policies brought in against the Jews, followed by their capture, incarceration and finally their extermination. The pictures are horrifying, the stories told are hearthbreaking and the thought of enduring what these people had to was incomprehensible.
Overall, the museum will have an appeal to virtually everyone, particularly with a military interest or background. It should however, be necessary for the children and youth of today to see it, in order to never forget what many people sacrificed to allow us to live our lives as we do today.
A museum that my husband and I visit on a regular basis is the Imperial War Museum in London. It is a must-see for those who have an interest in anything to do with the Military. The building was built in 1811 and was originally the 'Bethlehem Royal Hospital for the Insane'. It is an impressive building with two massive battleship guns in the front of the building. I must admit that I am not keen on war, but the creative displays and the way that the volume of information is presented is both informative and accessible, and is bound to impress anyone.
When you walk into the museum you are immediately confronted by an immense central hall filled with all sorts of tanks, submarines, bombs, aircraft and other huge engines of war. Little boys (and big boys) love the fact that they can get up close, feel the tanks and often take a peek inside.
There are sections of the museum devoted entirely to WW1 & WW2. You can try out the 'Trench experience' and the 'Blitz Experience' that accost your senses with the sights and sounds of warfare. The section which I enjoy is the 'Children's War' which focuses on how children experienced war, what happened to them and what everyday life was like at the time.
The museum houses various permanent displays as well as temporary special exhibitions. Entrance to the museum is free, but certain special exhibitions have an entrance fee.
Permanent exhibitions include the Holocaust Exhibition, WW1 & WW2, an Art Gallery that includes paintings and drawings done by soldiers, and the Children's War. The curators regularly refresh the displays so that there is always something new to see even if you are a regular visitor like us.
Currently the museum has an exhibition called 'Terrible Trenches' presented by Horrible Histories that is on until 31 October 2009 and is aimed mainly at young visitors. Other temporary exhibitions include the 'Windrush War' which focuses on War in the West Indies and 'Outbreak 1939' which gives an account of the day war was declared and the newspaper clippings and advertisements which appeared on the streets.
Visitors include a cross-section of family groups, foreign tourists and ex-service personnel. What makes this museum so special is that it is very tactile as you are allowed to touch most of the exhibits. It provides insight into military hardware as well as the human aspect of war.
Highly recommended by my husband and I.
The Imperial War Museum has 5 branches, 3 of which are in London, we visited the branch known as Imperial War Museum London, located on Lambeth Road.
The museum was easy to get to, we walked from the London Eye which took about 15 - 20 minutes at a 6 year olds pace. The nearest tube station is Elephant and Castle or Lambeth North, both a short walk away.
The Museum is housed in an old hospital built in 1815 which is set back from the road and is accessed through well maintained gardens. There are two naval guns outside the building.
The museum is free to get in although there may be a charge for some special exhibitions so it is worth checking online prior to visiting, the special exhibition when we went was Horrible Histories and Terrible Trenches was on when we went and cost £4.95 for adults and £2.50 for children - but if your children are not really into this / reading then stick to the free bits. We also paid for a guide book. There are 6 floors of exhibits and it can be hard to know where you have and haven't been as there is no map and indeed we struggled to find where the entrance to the childrens war exhibition was. To do it all in one visit may be a bit much as it is very erudite but with it being free to get in means you could do a couple of the exhibits and leave the rest for another time.
Just through the door is the Large Exhibit Gallery, which is an impressive central space full of military weapons and vehicles, including artillery guns, tanks, aircraft and a mock submarine which can be explored.
On our visit we did the Children's War exhibit and The World War 2 exhibit. The Children's War exhibit looks at the Second World War through the eyes of British Children. It tells the stories of the children evacuated from the cities who were separated from family and friends and those children who stayed and lived with the horrors of the Blitz. The stories are told through the letters, books, toys and other mementoes which illustrate the lives lived by the children. There is a life-sized 1940's house to walk through giving an insight into what it was like back then and the stark contrast to our own mod cons. There is also a prefabricated house introduced after the war to solve the housing crisis which can only be viewed through the windows. This exhibition was very good and informative and it was easy to personalise the events to a 6 year old.
The World War 2 exhibit was also very good, there were lots of displays of uniforms and artefacts from the war split into the various sections, i.e. Home Front, The War At Sea, Mediterranean and Middle East etc. This again was very erudite and not as interesting to a 6 year old as the Childrens War Exhibit was but it was very informative.
I would recommend this as a good place to go on a visit to London, it was interesting and informative and has something to appeal to everyone. We plan to visit again and do some of the other exhibits the next time we go to London. There is a museum shop which has a large selection of military books and other usual souvenirs that you would expect equally priced with souvenirs from elsewhere.
Being a fairly big history and war nut and having visited Duxford IWM numerous times I was not sure what to expect when visiting the London museum. Still essentially being in Central London it is very easy to get to if you are spending a few days in the capitol. Arriving at the museum you are presented with two impressive ex Royal Navy 15 inch guns used during the Second World War.
As with most museums in London entrance is free which in the current economic climate is a big bonus. You upon entrance enter a the main hall which houses some of the most iconic and well known war machines of all time such as the Messerschmitt 109, the Supermarine Spitfire, an early MkV tank and a V2 missile. There are also some rarer pieces such as midget submarines, a polaris missile and the smallest surviving boat to have survived the evacuation at Dunkirk.
Each display has information in front of it which is easily understandable and there are several hands on exhibits suitable for children (or like minded adults!).
Situated around the main atrium are several permanent and temporary exhibitions showing life on the home front, warfare during the cold war and the Holocaust. Be sure to check the IWM website for details of these temporary exhibitions.
For most people this museum will be a morning or afternoon trip, not a whole day. There is a museum shop and cafe and space outside in the museum grounds where you can enjoy lunch.
The Imperial War Museum houses anexcellent record of our military history and unlike Man Utd rather pathetic attempt to conduct a European campaign there are plenty of success stories to celebrate and also plenty of ooprtunities to reflect on the horrors of war.
Located near Elephant and Castle Tube which is about a five minute walk away the museum is free to enter and has its own cafe if you want food or drinks as well as a gift shop.
At the moment there is a really impressive display of the holocaust which makes use of video and audio exhibits as well as a really well set out history of the Jewish peoples struggle, it also recognises that it was not just the Jewish people who were victims of the Nazi atrocities.
The permanent exhibits are very comprehensive on both of the main wars and the conflicts since then, you can walk through a recreation ofthe trenches which is quite eirey.
The most impressive area is the main area you enter through the big double doors, there are lots of airplanes and military vehicles including some submarines and even a double decker bus from the first war. Some of the exhibits allow access to them and it is quite a hands on display.
Children and adults will love this museum as there are lots of hands on and interactive exhibits and it is well worth a visit if you are in London.
The Imperial War Museum has a longterm commitment to present the many stories connected to the Holocaust.
The galleries are in a discrete location in the museum and are not recommended for visitors under the age of 14 because of the deeply disturbing nature of the material on display and narratives.
The galleries deal with the Nazi persecution of the Jewish community before and during the Second World War but it also handles the state endorsed intolerance of other groups in society including Gypsies, political radicals and homosexuals.
Unlike watching a documentary or reading a book, the most powerful aspect of the visit is the bewildering array of objects connected to real people. The objects range from film footage, photographs, personal possessions, oral testimony, religious artefacts, letters, clothing to bigger individual pieces such as a deporation railway carriage and a funeral cart that moved bodies in the Warsaw Ghetto. Especially moving are the showcase full of personal items of clothing such as shoes for concentration camps. Equally impressive is a model-maker's faithful miniature reconstruction of Auschwitz, giving visitors an overview of the scale of Nazi operation.
As one of the IWM curators once said these galleries are not about someone else's history, they tell stories that affect us all whether we are Jewish or not.
During my stroll around the four floors plus basement of this impressive monument to British military successes, jam packed with memorabilia and historical documents it made me realise what it is truly like to finally understand our position in Europe, after all I reflected on the fact that our cheese eating surrender monkeys across the channel would struggle to muster one floor of military success stories, after all once you have devoted a floor to Napoleon where do you go from there, and even he was beaten by a bloke whose main claim to fame was designing a rubber boot. Anyway I kept my jingoistic thoughts to myself especially as the first two floors that we had visited had really served to highlight the pure awfulness of what man can do to man, any romantic ideas on the purity of war firmly squashed and cast asunder.
The Imperial War Museum is located south of the Thames on the corner of the Lambeth Road and George Street, there are a number of tube stations that it is close to, as we were on the Northern Line we got off at Elephant and Castle for the five minute walk to the museum. The approach is very impressive, two huge naval gun turrets point towards you protecting the rather grandiose building behind them, there are some green areas around the museum, good for enjoying picnics in the sun but hardly picturesque in their rather shabby demeanour. Unfortunately the photo opportunity of the building was spoilt somewhat by the scaffolding covering half the building.
Entry to the museum is free, some of the special exhibits could incur a charge however on our visit the two special displays did not so we were free to enjoy everything the museum has to offer. Upon entry there is a cleverly laid our entrance queuing system where after the bag check they try and sell you a guide book, smile, say hello and walk on as in the next open area there is an information desk where you can get a map for free. There is also a free cloak room and toilets down some stairs.
Surrounding the information desk is an impressive display of large exhibits, tanks and artillery guns rub shoulders with missile launchers and eve a double-decker bus, the most impressive exhibit for me was an old WWI tank and also the Jaeger tank with part of the side cut away so you can peer in. From the ceiling are suspended various aircraft while at the back of the room there are some submarines, all in all an impressive opening to the museum and very popular with people of all ages.
We decided to head up to the two special exhibits first located on the top two floors. The first is a 30 minute film titled "Crimes against humanity". Be aware this is not open to children under 11 and not recommended for under 16 year olds, having said that my 13 and 15 year old watched it and there was little on it that they have not seen on news clips. More upsetting are the words being said rather than the visual stuff. It covers many atrocities particularly the more recent ones in Rwanda and the states that formerly made up Yugoslavia, not surprising I guess given the availability of modern media footage. For me the most upsetting was not actually the voices of the victims of the violence rather the voices of two individuals, one a 14 year old male and the other a 20 something woman whose testimony was how they were forced to take part in the massacre or face death themselves.
On the third floor is The Holocaust Exhibition, again there is no entry to under 11 and it is not recommended for under 14's. This was the most impressive exhibit in the museum, a comprehensive account of the events leading up to and during the Holocaust. I loved the way that it is set out, taking you on a journey throughout the period and explaining the history of anti Semitism, it uses a range of displays from audio visual screens, models of Auschwitz including a timeline of prisoners from arrival at the camp to their appointment in the gas chambers and documents and artefacts to demonstrate the human face of the whole horrible passage of history. We spent a good hour in this exhibit and it was jam packed with information and personal testimonies from survivors, it is quite graphic in places but nothing too extreme and certainly it held the attention of my two children and had them asking lots of questions. As I walked through this it did stir the feelings of revulsion I have for those who deny or talk down the holocaust and reminds me of why I despise the BNP and its supporters with such a passion. The exhibit actually ends on the second floor such is the extent of the exhibits.
On the first floor there are some more large exhibits including the walk through cockpit of a WWII bomber and a full size excocet missile that gained notoriety during the Falklands War. The most interesting display on this floor though is Secret War a history of espionage during the wars and up to the present day, in particular counter espionage work and forces like the SAS, there is even a film of the Iranian Embassy siege and the SAS going in which bought back memories of watching The Professionals as a youngster only for it to cut away to something far more interesting when this event took place.
The ground floor and basement are given over to the permanent exhibits on the first and second world wars. The Terrible Trenches exhibit is excellent and very hands on, you get to walk through a mock up of the trenches with some audio playing the sounds of war and some snatches of conversation. There is also the Children War an account of childhood during WWII which has some interesting information on the evacuations to the countryside and also a mock up of a 1940's house.
At first I thought the rest of the exhibits on the Lower Ground Floor were a bit confusing however they actually follow a quite well organised flow, however by this time we were becoming a bit jaded and also the exhibits are rather crammed in and there is a danger of overload, as my son commented on when he moaned about another case of guns to look at. To be honest this section was probably best left for another day as we were "exhibited out" by that stage.
In terms of other facilities there are only one set of toilets located in the lower ground floor so go before you venture up to the fourth. On the ground floor there is a café that is open all day until 17.30, it sells rather expensive sandwiches, £3.50 for a tuna mayo which attempted to justify the price tag with the observation that the bread was sour dough and the mayo contained chives, but neither added to the culinary experience. It also has some hot options like pie and mushy peas and a kids menu of pigs in blankets (sausage in a pastry wrap) both of which looked pricey and not great value. Next time I will buy at the Tesco at Elephant and Castle and eat in the park.
The museum has good access for the disabled however the 1940's house has stairs so access is restricted and involves a certain amount of back tracking, also on the bottom two floors the walkways are rather cramp making wheel chair access tight and there are some uneven floors for those who are unsteady on their feet.
Overall I have been impressed with our visit, there is plenty to do and see with a full range of mediums used and enough hands on exhibits to entertain the kids. I would definitely visit again when the next lot of special exhibits arrive after the summer and the museum is a pretty full day out if you want it to be.
For more information and to check opening times have a look a www.iwm.org.uk.
Thanks for reading and rating my review.
While on a recent visit to London, we decided to go to the Imperial War Museum in the Lambeth area of the city (south of the Thames). Unfortunately, it was half-term so the museum was heaving with people, but it just goes to show what a popular place it is.
A brief history of the museum...
The Imperial War Museum was formally established in 1920 after the war cabinet decided in 1917 that a museum should be set up to safeguard and display things relating to the Great War. The museum was originally in the Crystal Palace, but was moved to the former Bethlam Royal Hospital (Bedlam) in 1936. The museum's collection has since been extended to include things from World War 2 and other wars since.
Inside the museum...
Put your money away... you won't be needing it to enter the museum - It's free entry! However, I do think it's appropriate to leave a donation on the way out. We did, however, buy a programme as we entered, but it is optional. There is also a cloakroom, should you be carrying heavy coats and bags.
The main hall of the museum (the Large Exhibits Gallery) holds many military vehicles, aircraft and weapons. There are aircraft hanging from above, tanks, submarines, missiles and more. Each has a plaque to tell you what it is and what it has done. Some of these exhibits are interactive.
To the left of the main hall is the cafe. We didn't go in there (it was so busy!), but it does seem to be a popular place. As it was so busy, some had brought their trays out into the main hall and were sat eating picnic-like and that seemed to be OK with the museum staff.
To the right of the main hall is the museum shop. It has a wide range of books, DVDs, toys and gifts. Several items were tempting me to buy them! Toilets were down the stairs on this side of the museum (along with the Trenches exhibit), but were quite a trek. However, I did notice a few disabled toilets dotted about the museum.
There are a number of other permanent galleries around the museum. These include the First and Second World War Galleries, exhibits from Conflicts since 1945, the Victoria and George Cross Gallery, the Secret War exhibition, the Holocaust Exhibition and others.
I found the Holocaust Exhibition very moving. Various TV screens showed an interview with a Holocaust survivor, a Nazi video, among other things. We were shown what the Holocaust victims went through - the anti-semitism, the concentration and death camps, the gas chambers. It brought out feelings of sadness and anger. After all, these events happened in recent history!
The Imperial War Museum also holds a series of other exhibitions. One of the most popular current ones being "For Your Eyes Only: Ian Fleming and James Bond", which is on until 1st March 2009. However, you do have to pay to get into this exhibition, but it's worth it if you're a fan. The exhibition shows manuscripts, clothing (including a 'blood-splattered' shirt worn by Daniel Craig in Casino Royale), a revolver, prototypes and more. This exhibition also helps visitors learn more about the Cold War.
Other current (as of November 2008) temporary exhibitions include "In Memoriam: Remembering the Great War" (this is what had attracted me to make a visit to the Imperial War Museum), "The Children's War" (the World War 2 home front through the eyes of children), "From War to Windrush" (personal stories of the involvement of black people from the West Indies in the 2 World Wars), "Unspeakable: The Artist as Witness to the Holocaust" (art by people affected by the Holocaust) and "Breakthrough" (artworks from both World Wars).
Other events are also held at the Imperial War Museum, including film screenings and talks.
During our visit in October half-term, there were several activities to keep children entertained and interested and, at the same time, learning.
The museum is on several floors, but all floors are accessibly to those with disabilities. There are stairs and lifts to access the various floors as well as seats dotted around the museum.
In all it took us 2 - 3 hours to get around the museum, but I was rushing a bit as I felt unwell at the time. So it's best to set aside up a whole morning or afternoon when visiting the museum.
There are also parks around the museum, if your feet can take any more walking!
Getting to the Imperial War Museum...
We took the tube to Lambeth North station and walked from there. It was only a couple of streets away and was very well signposted. On the way back, we carried on past Lambeth North station and onto the London Eye.
The Elephant & Castle tube station is the other side of the museum, but isn't far away either. Regular buses also pass by the museum.
The Imperial War Museum is open all year around (apart from Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day), from 10am until 6pm.
This museum is well worth a visit. It is not only educational, but interesting too. None of the many kids there while I was there looked bored, but instead were taking great interest in the exhibitions and activities. Do note though that some of the exhibitions aren't really suitable for young children (such as the Holocaust exhibition), but you will be reminded of that when there.
I'd certainly consider visiting the Imperial War Museum again in the future.