Art museums and galleries in London

Imperial War Museum

9.3/10

The Imperial War Museum is a museum in Southwark, South London, England which documents British and Commonwealth history since 1914, with an emphasis on the causes, course and consequences of conflict. The museum was founded in 1917 and intended as a record of the national and international war effort of the First World War which was still being fought at the time. 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 weaponry, equipment, military vehicles and aircraft, and other artefacts. The museum serves as headquarters of a 5-branch system of related museums, a number of which are based on historic sites.

The Imperial War Museum is partly funded by government grants as well as individual contributions and revenue generation through retailing, licensing income and other commercial activity. The Museum is an exempt charity under the Charities Act 1993 and a non-departmental public body under the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. The current Chairman of the Trustees is Air Chief Marshal Sir Peter Squire. Since October 2008, the museum's Director General has been Diane Lees. The previous Director General, from 1995 to 2008, was Sir Robert Crawford, CBE.

History

Establishment

On 27 February 1917 Sir Alfred Mond, an MP and First Commissioner of Works, wrote to the Prime Minister David Lloyd George to propose the establishment of a National War Museum. This proposal was accepted by the War Cabinet on 5 March 1917 and the decision announced in The Times on 26 March. A committee was established, chaired by Mond, to oversee the collection of material to be exhibited in the new museum.

This National War Museum Committee set about collecting material to illustrate Britain's war effort by dividing into subcommittees examining such subjects as the Army, Navy, the production of munitions and women's war work. There was an early appreciation of the need for exhibits to reflect personal experience in order to prevent the collections becoming dead relics. Sir Martin Conway, the Museum's first Director General, said that exhibits must "be vitalised by contributions expressive of the action, the experiences, the valour and the endurance of individuals". In December 1917 the name of the Museum was changed to the Imperial War Museum to reflect the contribution of the Empire to the war effort.

Opening

The museum was opened by the King at the Crystal Palace on 9 June 1920. During the opening ceremony, Sir Alfred Mond addressed the King on the behalf of committee, saying that 'it was hoped to make the museum so complete that every one who took part in the war, however obscurely, would find therein an example or illustration of the sacrifice he or she made' and that the museum 'was not a monument of military glory, but a record of toil and sacrifice' . Shortly afterwards the Imperial War Museum Act 1920 was passed and established a Board of Trustees to oversee the governance of the museum. While the Act was being debated, some Parliamentarians felt that that museum would perpetuate an undesirable war spirit and Commander Joseph Kenworthy MP said that he would 'refuse to vote a penny of public money to commemorate such suicidal madness of civilisation as that which was shown in the late War' . By November 1921 the museum had received 2,290,719 visitors.


Relocation

In 1924 the museum moved to the Imperial Institute (now Imperial College London) in South Kensington. While this location was more central and in a prestigious area for museums, the accommodation itself proved cramped and inadequate and in 1936 a new permanent location was found south of the River Thames in Southwark.

The building, designed by James Lewis was the former Bethlem Royal Hospital which had been vacated following the hospital's relocation to Beckenham in Kent. The site was owned by Lord Rothermere, who had originally intended to demolish the building entirely in order to provide a public park in what was a severely overcrowded area of London. Eventually the central portion of the hospital building was retained while its two extensive wings were removed and the resulting space named Geraldine Mary Harmsworth Park, after Lord Rothermere's mother. Sir Martin Conway described the building as '...a fine building, really quite noble building, with a great portico, a distinguishing dome, and two great wings added to it for the accommodation of lunatics no longer required. This particular building can be made to contain our collection admirably, and we shall preserve from destruction quite a fine building which otherwise will disappear' . The 'distinguishing dome' was added by Sydney Smirke in 1846 and housed the hospital's chapel, and is now the museum's reading room. The museum was reopened by the Duke of York (later King George VI) in its new accommodation on 7 July 1936.

With the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, the museum began to collect material documenting the conflict. The museum initially remained open but was closed for the duration in September 1940 and did not reopen until November 1946.

In 1953, with Commonwealth forces engaged in Korea and Malaya the museum began its current policy of collecting material from all modern conflicts in which British or Commonwealth forces were involved.

Redevelopment

In 1966 the Museum's Southwark building was extended to provide collections storage and other facilities, the first major expansion since the Museum had moved to the site. The development also included a purpose-built cinema. Two years later in 1968 a pair of 15-inch naval guns were installed in front of the Museum. Both had previously been mounted in Royal Navy warships (one from HMS Ramillies and the other mounted on HMS Resolution and later HMS Roberts) and had been fired in action during the Second World War.

Later that year on 13 October the Museum was attacked by an arsonist, Timothy John Daly, who claimed he was acting in protest against the exhibition of militarism to children. He caused damage valued at approximately £200,000, not counting the loss of irreplaceable books and documents. On his conviction in 1969 he was sentenced to four years in prison. In September 1992 the museum was the target of a Provisional Irish Republican Army attack against London tourist attractions. Two incendiary devices were found and caused minor damage.

A further major redevelopment programme for the Southwark site, costing £16.7 million, was started in 1986 and opened by the Queen on 29 June 1989. A second stage completed in 1994. Finally, a third stage of redevelopment was completed in 2000, giving the Southwark site its current configuration. This latter redevelopment was partly funded by a £12.6 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and included the installation of the museum's Holocaust Exhibition which was opened by the Queen in June 2000. This was the first permanent exhibition dedicated to the Holocaust in a UK museum, and had taken 5 years at a cost of £5 million.

period also saw the use of the surrounding park for purposes of commemoration or the promotion of peace. In 1999 a Soviet War Memorial was unveiled by the then Secretary of State for Defence George Robertson, and the Russian ambassador Yuri Fokine. The date of the unveiling (9 May) was significant as that day is marked as Victory Day in Russia. Also in May 1999 the Dalai Lama opened a Tibetan Peace Garden, commissioned by the Tibet Foundation, in the park. The garden features a bronze cast of the Kalachakra Mandala, contemporary western sculpture, and a pillar inscribed with a message from the Dalai Lama in English, Tibetan, Hindi and Chinese.

Expansion

From the 1970s onwards the museum began to expand onto other sites.

Imperial War Museum Duxford

The first of these sites was a former RAF and United States Army Air Force airfield at Duxford in Cambridgeshire, which had been a fighter station during the Second World War. The last operational flight at Duxford was made in July 1961 and the Ministry of Defence later sought to dispose of it. The museum acquired the site in 1977 in partnership with the Duxford Aviation Society and Cambridgeshire County Council. Imperial War Museum Duxford, as the site is now known, houses the museum’s aircraft and military vehicle collection, as well a number of regimental museums, and provides additional collections storage. The site remains an active airfield and hosts regular air displays.

HMS Belfast

In 1978 the Royal Navy cruiser HMS Belfast became a branch of the museum, having been preserved as a museum ship by a private trust and moored in the River Thames since 1971. Belfast had served throughout the Second World War, participating in the destruction of the German battlecruiser Scharnhorst at the Battle of North Cape, and fired the opening salvos in the Normandy landings. She also served during the Korean War.

Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms

In 1984 the Cabinet War Rooms, an underground complex that had been used as an operational command and control centre by the British government throughout the Second World War, was opened to the public as a branch of the museum. Located beneath the Treasury building in the Whitehall area of Westminster, the facilities were abandoned in August 1945 after the surrender of Japan. Following a major expansion in 2003, the Rooms were reopened in 2005 as the Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms, with the additional space developed as a biographical museum exploring the life of British statesman Winston Churchill.

Imperial War Museum North

Finally, in 2002 Imperial War Museum North was opened in Trafford, Greater Manchester. Designed by architect Daniel Libeskind, the building was the first of the museum’s branches to be purpose-built as a museum, and the first to be located outside of south east England.

Collections

The Imperial War Museum maintains an online database of its collections named Collections Online.

Department of Documents

The Department of Documents holds private papers such as letters and diaries from both individual soldiers and civilians to high-ranking officers such as Field Marshals Bernard Montgomery, Sir John French and Henry Maitland Wilson. Also of note are manuscripts by war poets Isaac Rosenberg and Siegfried Sassoon. The Department holds the official British records of the Nuremberg and Tokyo War Crimes Tribunals and a variety of other official records.

Department of Art

The Art department holds much of the work of official war artists from both world wars, and contemporary art from after 1945. As early as 1920 the art collection held over 3,000 works and included pieces by John Singer Sargent, Wyndham Lewis, John Nash and Christopher Nevinson. The collection expanded again after the Second World War, holding around 70% of the 6,000 works produced by the Ministry of Information's War Artists Advisory Committee. The collection also includes a large number of propaganda posters from many countries and periods.Шаблон:Ref label In 1972 the museum's Artistic Records Committee was established to commission artists to cover contemporary conflicts.

Film and Video Archive

The Film and Video Archive is one of the oldest film archives in Britain and preserves a range of historically significant film and video material. The collection includes the official British film record of the First World War and the 1916 feature film The Battle of the Somme, which is inscribed on UNESCO's Memory of the World register. The collection also includes the official British film record of the Second World War, amateur film and film of other conflicts since 1945. Material from the collection was used to make a number of well-known TV documentary series including The Great War and The World at War.

Photograph Archive

The Photograph Archive preserves the official British photographic record of both World Wars and conflicts since 1945. It currently holds more than 6,000,000 images and the Second World War collection includes the work of photographers such as Bill Brandt, Cecil Beaton and Bert Hardy.

Both the Film and Photograph Archives are official repositories for material produced by the Ministry of Defence and so include material from contemporary operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Department of Exhibits and Firearms

The Department of Exhibits and Firearms is responsible for the care of the Museum's collection of three-dimensional objects. The cores of the collection are the firearms collection, collections of artillery, ordnance and vehicles, and medals and decorations such as the Victoria Cross and George Cross. In addition to the Museum's own collection of these medals, in 2008 it was announced that Lord Ashcroft's private collection of 152 VCs will go on public display at the Museum. Many of the department's larger exhibits are on display and can be seen in the photographs below. Other exhibits include artillery pieces whose crew won the Victoria Cross, a Lee Enfield rifle used by T. E. Lawrence, and a Colt 1911 automatic pistol owned by Winston Churchill.

Department of Printed Books

The Department of Printed Books is responsible for the Museum’s collection of printed materials including books, maps and ephemera. When the Museum was established the distinguished historian Sir Charles Oman was given responsibility for the library. In 1922 the library collection contained a reported 20,000 items and 60,000 items in 1953. Today the Museum gives the size of its library collection as 270,000 items.

Sound Archive

The Sound Archive, originally named the Department of Sound Records, administers a collection of over 56,000 hours of historical recordings and was opened to the public in July 1977. The core of this collection are oral history interviews with people who were affected by war in the 20th century. This collection has been used for a series of radio programmes and books, called Forgotten Voices, about war in the 20th century. The collection also includes historic broadcasts, and actuality sound effects recorded during conflicts.

Directors

Directors of the Imperial War Museum
Sir Martin Conway 1917–1937
Leslie Bradley 1937–1960
Dr Noble Frankland 1960–1982
Dr Alan Borg 1982–1995
Sir Robert Crawford 1995–2008
Diane Lees 2008-present

Visiting the museum

Admission is free to both Imperial War Museum London and Imperial War Museum North, while an admission fee is payable at HMS Belfast, Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms, and Imperial War Museum Duxford. Admission for children under 16 is free at all sites. Full details can be found at the external links below.


Notes

References

Шаблон:Reflist

External links

Post a comment
Tips & Hints
Arrange By:
HISTORY UK
15 February 2011
The museum is located in the former Royal Bethlem Hospital for the mentally ill (from where the term ‘bedlam’ comes). The iconic guns at the front are 15 inch naval cannon, both used in action in WW2.
kumi monster
1 January 2010
i really enjoy the "Crimes against humanity: an exploration of genocide and ethnic violence" film in the permanent collection.
Load more comments
foursquare.com
Location
Map
Address

35 Brook Drive, Camberwell, London SE11, UK

Get directions
Open hours
Mon-Sun 10:00 AM–6:00 PM
References

Imperial War Museum on Foursquare

Imperial War Museum on Facebook

Hotels nearby

See all hotels See all
Spectacular Strand 2 bed apartment!!

starting $0

Amba Hotel Charing Cross

starting $645

1 Compton

starting $0

The Grand at Trafalgar Square

starting $418

Clarendon Serviced Apartments - Chandos Place

starting $0

Amba Hotel Charing Cross

starting $0

Recommended sights nearby

See all See all
Add to wishlist
I've been here
Visited
St George's Circus
United Kingdom

St George's Circus is a road junction in Southwark, London SE1. At its

Add to wishlist
I've been here
Visited
Ministry of Sound
United Kingdom

Ministry of Sound London (commonly referred to as just Ministry of

Add to wishlist
I've been here
Visited
Lambeth Palace
United Kingdom

Lambeth Palace is the official London residence of the Archbishop of

Add to wishlist
I've been here
Visited
Sea Life London Aquarium
United Kingdom

The Sea Life London Aquarium located on the ground floor of County

Add to wishlist
I've been here
Visited
Westminster Bridge
United Kingdom

Westminster Bridge is a road-and-foot-traffic bridge over the River

Add to wishlist
I've been here
Visited
London Eye
United Kingdom

The Merlin Entertainments London Eye (known more simply as The London

Add to wishlist
I've been here
Visited
Buxton Memorial Fountain
United Kingdom

The Buxton Memorial Fountain is a memorial and drinking fountain in

Add to wishlist
I've been here
Visited
The Burghers of Calais
United Kingdom

Les Bourgeois de Calais is one of the most famous sculptures by

Similar tourist attractions

See all See all
Add to wishlist
I've been here
Visited
Manchester Art Gallery
United Kingdom

Manchester Art Gallery is a free-to-view municipally-owned public art

Add to wishlist
I've been here
Visited
Louvre
France

The Musée du Louvre (Шаблон:IPA-fr), or officially Grand Louvre — in E

Add to wishlist
I've been here
Visited
National Gallery of Scotland
United Kingdom

The National Gallery of Scotland, in Edinburgh, is the national art

Add to wishlist
I've been here
Visited
McManus Galleries
United Kingdom

McManus Galleries is a Gothic Revival-style building, located in the

Add to wishlist
I've been here
Visited
Wereldmuseum
Netherlands

The Wereldmuseum Rotterdam (formerly known as the Museum voor Land- en

See all similar places