Imperial War Museum

Imperial War Museum (60)

Created at the behest of King George V to exhibit pieces relating to the First World War, this museum, opened in 1920, aims to promote, through its collection, the analysis and comprehension of modern war. Despite it offering a global vision, the museum lays special emphasis on the wars that the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth have taken part in. 

It is interesting to point out that the Imperial War Museum pays great attention to the effects that war has on the civilian population, and which focuses on situations such as bombings or the need for rationing.

The building located in Lambeth Road is its main centre, but not the only one, since also forming part of his network of exhibitions are places such as the boat-museum HMS Belfast, anchored in the Thames, and the Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms, which is in Whitehall.

Until 1936 the collection was kept in  Crystal Palace. Then it was moved to its current site, which had previously been occupied by the Bethlehem psychiatric hospital, which had been relocated in Surrey in 1930, and the side wings were demolished. The central part was reformed to house the current collection of the Imperial War Museum.

Two enormous cannons placed in front of the Ionic portico of the building welcomes us to a space in which we will come across rockets, missiles, tanks and even mythical planes such as the Spitfire, which pushed the Battle of Britain towards a British victory.

The lower level of the museum may be of special interest: apart from showing pieces relating to the two world wars, the interwar period and the conflicts after the Second World War, there are attractive exhibitions with faithful reconstructions of war scenes, both on the front line and among the civilian population. One of them recreates the inside of British army trench in the First World War. It is not suitable for people who are frightened in dark and narrow spaces, but it can give you a very realistic impression of what it was like on the front line.

The most stunning area of the Imperial War Museum is without doubt the third floor, which houses an exhibition about the Holocaust, which includes photos, objects and a model of the Auschwitz concentration camp. 

The fourth floor is a multimedia display in which, as well as an enormous number of photographs, you can see audiovisual documents about conflicts as recent as those in the former Yugoslavia and sculptures by Jacob Epstein and drawings by Henry Moore.

As well as the permanent collection, the Imperial War Museum provides the visitor with interesting temporary exhibitions and a library that possesses a very complete archive.

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