Thursday 4 September 2014

Imperial War Museum London

It's been a few years since I have visited this excellent museum and I have been eagerly awaiting the reopening after its two year long refurbishment and enlargement. While I enjoyed the old building in its previous layout I'm not one of these people that clings to the past and rejects change. I loved the transformation of the British Museum in 2000 into the bright, modern and visually stunning space it is now and I have to say I'm equally impressed with the new interior of IWM London. Many of the old and much loved exhibits previously on display have been returned and the new space truly does them justice. 

So in the last few days of the kids summer holidays I took my youngest daughter along. I didn't take as many pictures as I usually do, partly because photography isn't allowed in some areas and partly because many of the Galleries are rather poorly lit and with many exhibits behind glass trying to get a good photo was quite hard.

The Naval guns outside the entrance are iconic

Inside the new and enlarged entrance foyer

Another view of the entrance

Many of the large items such as the Spitfire and V2 are old favourites

A LRDG Chevrolet truck found in the Egyptian desert in 1980

A campaign map from North Africa

Monty's Staff Car

Anti Personnel Mines from the desert campaign

The T34 - The other tanks (Monty's Grant and the Jagdpanther) are no longer here and have presumably been moved to the Land Warfare hall at Duxford.
We had a great day at IWM London but there were a few things that I was disappointed about that are worth mentioning. Firstly I didn't find the museum map very helpful and I'm sure there were lots of things that we missed as a result. I'm not sure if this is a case or a poorly designed map or a ploy to get visitors to buy the guide book (I'm ever the cynic) but I do think it makes it harder for visitors to find and explore those areas and artifacts that most interest and engage them. Also, as already mentioned, Photography isn't allowed in some areas - a policy I don't understand or agree with - and I didn't feel the signage alerting visitors to this was very clear. I was 'told off' twice for taking pictures in prohibited areas because I hadn't seen the no-photography sign, and in other galleries where I probably could have taken photo's I felt too intimidated to do so. A great pity, and I'm sure the staff have better things to do than police the photography rules.

Having said all this I can't stress enough that if you get a chance you really need to visit this museum for yourself. The collection is second to none and I found many of the new displays were exceptionally well laid out with a good interactive element. I really like the interior redesign and I thought the exhibitions and new displays were very good, albeit limited in scope because of space constraints. The WWI exhibition is particularly good and very interesting but be warmed some of the images are rather graphic and my be unsuitable for small children. Also this gallery in particular is very dimly lit making photography without a flash nigh on impossible. 


  1. An excellent place to visit. A must for every histircally interested on a trip to London.
    Thanks for sharing your impressions.

  2. It's a great place, I went up a few weeks ago for the Great War Exhibit, I would recommend it to anyone. And it's free! What isn't to like?

  3. I've visited 4 or 5 times over the past 2 decades - love it every time

  4. I hope I can visit this museum one day. It looks very impressive! And I will take pictures then! I can always play teh dumb Belgian then! Me don't understand! Me from Belgium! :-D
    Thanks for sharing Lee!


  5. I was there the week it opened - are the WW1 exhibiton queues still insanely large?

    I don't really remember how it looked like before, but I do miss all the great tanks they had back then. I was told they are at Land Warfare museum as well :P. I did like the modern exhibits, though. Not sure if they'd fit into a museum, but still very nice.

    I am with you on forbidden photography and I was warned last year in the Holocaust exhibit as well - I think it's because of the age limit, but that's still a very bad excuse for banning it.

    1. They were handing out times entry tickets for the WWI exhibit as we went in, so no queues but the gallery was still very very busy.

      I'd guessed they moved the big tanks to Duxford. Mind you there isn't much room there for new acquisitions so I'm not sure where the vehicles will be displayed.

      I take the view that the primary role of a museum is to preserve artifacts and educate the public. I don't see how banning photo's benefits the latter objective. I can understand some sensitivity about taking pictures in the Holocaust exhibit but surely this is one subject for which Education to a wide audience is its overriding raison d'être. In my mind banning pictures runs completely contrary to this objective.

  6. Would love to visit this Museum one day. I don't understand photo bans either.
    Having been to Dachau concentration camp it was an EXTREME education but done very respectfully. No truth is hidden there and we should never forget.

  7. I haven't been there in well over a decade looks great though.


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