|Imperial War Museum|
Imperial War Museum London
|Location||Lambeth Road, London SE1, England|
|Collection size||10,700,000 items or collections of items.|
|Visitor figures||Imperial War Museum London 865,601
All Museum branches 2,006,765.
|Public transit access||Lambeth North 
Southwark ( Waterloo East)
Elephant & Castle
London Bus routes: 3, 59, 159, 344, 360
|Imperial War Museum network|
|Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms · HMS Belfast · Imperial War Museum Duxford · Imperial War Museum North|
The Imperial War Museum is a British national museum organisation with branches at five locations in England, three of which are in London. The museum was founded during the First World War in 1917 and intended as a record of the war effort and sacrifice of Britain and her Empire. Today the museum gives its mission as 'to enable people to have an informed understanding of modern war and its impact on individuals and society'.
Originally housed in the Crystal Palace at Sydenham Hill, the museum opened to the public in 1920. In 1924 the museum moved to space in the Imperial Institute in South Kensington, and finally in 1936 the museum acquired a permanent home which was previously the Bethlem Royal Hospital in Southwark. The outbreak of the Second World War saw the museum expand both its collections and its terms of reference, but the post-war period saw the museum enter a period of decline. The 1960s saw the museum redevelop its Southwark building, now referred to as Imperial War Museum London, and which serves as the organisation's corporate headquarters. During the 1970s the museum began to expand onto other sites. The first, in 1976, was a historic airfield in Cambridgeshire now referred to as Imperial War Museum Duxford. In 1978 the Royal Navy cruiser HMS Belfast became a branch of the museum, having previously been preserved for the nation by a private trust. In 1984 the Cabinet War Rooms, an underground wartime command centre, was opened to the public. From the 1980s onwards the museum's Bethlem building underwent a series of multimillion-pound redevelopments, completed in 2000. Finally, 2002 saw the opening of Imperial War Museum North in Trafford, Greater Manchester, the fifth branch of the museum and the first in the north of England.
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 military vehicles and aircraft, equipment and other artefacts. The museum is funded by government grants, charitable donations and revenue generation through commercial activity such as retailing, licensing, and publishing. Admission is free to Imperial War Museum London and Imperial War Museum North, but an admission fee is levied at the other branches. 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.
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, the 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". The museum's first curator and secretary was Charles ffoulkes, who had previously been curator of the Tower of London armouries. In July 1917 Mond made a visit to the Western Front in order to study how best to organise the museum's growing collection. While in France he met French government ministers, and Field Marshal Haig, who reportedly took great interest in his work. In December 1917 the name was changed to the Imperial War Museum after a resolution from the India and Dominions Committee of the museum.
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. To reflect the museum's Imperial remit the board included appointees of the governments of India, South Africa, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. 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.
In 1924 the museum moved to the Imperial Institute building (demolished in the 1950s and 1960s to make way for Imperial College) 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 of the war in September 1940 with the onset of the Blitz. On 31 January 1941 the museum was struck by a Luftwaffe bomb which fell on the naval gallery. A number of ship models were damaged by the blast and a Short Seaplane, which had flown at the Battle of Jutland, was destroyed. While closed to the public the museum's building was used for a variety of purposes connected to the war effort, such as a repair garage for government motor vehicles, a centre for Air Raid Precautions civil defence lectures and a fire fighting training school. In October 1945 the museum mounted a temporary exhibition, the first since the end of the war in August, which showcased technologies developed by the Petroleum Warfare Department. These included the submarine fuel pipeline PLUTO, the fog dispersal method FIDO, and flame weapons such as the Churchill Crocodile and Wasp Universal Carrier. However, due to bomb damage to both the building and exhibits, the museum was obliged to reopen its galleries piecemeal. The museum reopened a portion of its galleries in November 1946. A third of the galleries were opened in 1948 and a further wing opened in 1949.
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. However, despite this expansion of remit, the early postwar period was a period of decline for the museum. Dr Noble Frankland, the museum's Director from 1960 to 1982, described the museum's galleries in 1955 as appearing 'dingy and neglected' and in a 'dismal state of decay' the museum's 'numerous stunning exhibits' notwithstanding.
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.
By 1983 the museum was again looking to redevelop the Southwark site and approached engineering firm Arup to plan a phased programme of works that would expand the building's exhibition space, provide appropriate environmental controls to protect collections, and improve facilities for visitors. The first phase of these works, started in 1986, created 8,000m2 of gallery space of which 4,6002 was new, and saw the conversion of what was previously the hospital's courtyard into a centrepiece Large Exhibits Gallery. This gallery featured a strengthened ground floor (to support the weight of very heavy exhibits), a first floor mezzanine and second storey viewing balcony. Into this space were placed tanks, artillery pieces, vehicles, ordnance and aircraft from the First World War to the Falklands War, and for some years the museum was marketed as 'The new Imperial War Museum'. This atrium, with its concentration of military hardware, has been described as 'the biggest boys' bedroom in London'.  This first phase cost £16.7 million (of which £12 million was provided by the government) and was opened by the Queen on 29 June 1989.
In September 1992 the museum was the target of a Provisional Irish Republican Army attack against London tourist attractions. Two incendiary devices were found in a basement gallery, but were extinguished by staff before the arrival of the fire brigade, and caused only minor damage.
A second stage of redevelopment, providing a further 1,600m2 of floor space was completed in 1994 and a third stage in 2000. The latter expansion, the Southwest Infill, was partly funded by a £12.6 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and provided 5,860m2 of gallery space and educational facilities over six floors The development included the installation of the museum's Holocaust Exhibition which was opened by the Queen on 6 June 2000. This was the first permanent exhibition dedicated to the Holocaust in a UK museum, and had taken five years at a cost of £5 million.
This 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.
In August 2009 the museum announced the creation of the Imperial War Museum Foundation. Chaired by Jonathan Harmsworth, the great-grandson of the 1st Viscount who had secured the museum's Bethlem building, the foundation is charged with raising funds to support the refurbishment of the museum's permanent galleries. At the time of the announcement, the museum was planning for the refurbishment of its First World War gallery by 2014, the centenary of the outbreak of the war, and for the refurbishment of its Second World War and Post-1945 galleries by 2020, the museum's own centenary.
From the 1970s onwards the museum began to expand onto other sites. The first of these sites, a former RAF and United States Army Air Force airfield at Duxford in Cambridgeshire, was opened to the public on a regular basis in June 1976. HMS Belfast, a light cruiser moored in the Pool of London, has been under the care of the museum since 1978.
The Duxford branch of the Imperial War Museum houses its large exhibits, including the aircraft and military and naval vehicles collection. The museum has seven main exhibition buildings with nearly 200 military and civil aircraft. A historic airfield, used for military flying since 1916; the last operational flight at Duxford was made in July 1961. The museum originally only used one of the site's hangars as temporary storage for part of its aircraft collection; however, following a series of popular air displays from 1973 onwards, the museum acquired the entire site for its use in February 1976.
The aircraft collection includes types such as a British Aircraft Corporation TSR-2 and the only SR-71 Blackbird on display outside the United States of America. The military vehicle collection includes command caravans used by Field Marshal Montgomery. The naval collection includes an example of an X-craft midget submarine and the Vosper motor torpedo boat MTB-71. The site provides accommodation for a number of regimental museums (including those of the Parachute Regiment, named Airborne Assault, and the Royal Anglian Regiment), and also provides additional collections storage. The site remains an active airfield and hosts regular air displays.
Care of the light cruiser HMS Belfast, which had served throughout the Second World War, was transferred to the museum on 1 March 1978 after Shirley Williams, the then Secretary of State for Education and Science, accepted that the ship was "a unique demonstration of an important phase of our history and technology".
She had been preserved for the nation since 1971 in the Pool of London under the care of a private charitable trust, the HMS Belfast Trust; the first such preservation of a naval ship since HMS Victory. The museum, along with the National Maritime Museum and the Ministry of Defence, had been involved in an earlier plan, which took place in the late 1960s, to preserve the ship, which the government on that occasion had declined in 1971.
HMS Belfast was a notable vessel. Launched in March 1938 she served throughout the Second World War, participating in the Battle of North Cape and firing some of the first shots of Operation Overlord. She later served in the Korean War. The ship left Singapore on 26 March 1962 for the UK where she made a final visit to Belfast and after an exercise in the Mediterranean was paid off on 24 August 1963. In service for 24 years HMS Belfast was, in the view of historian Noble Frankland, capable of representing "a whole generation of [historical evidence]".
In 1984 the Cabinet War Rooms were opened to the public as a branch of the museum. The War Rooms are an underground complex that had been used as a command centre by the British government throughout the Second World War. Located beneath the Treasury building in the Whitehall area of Westminster, the facilities were constructed before the war in anticipation of extremely destructive aerial bombing of London. They became operational in 1939 and were in constant operation for the duration of the war. The complex was abandoned in August 1945 after the surrender of Japan. The historical value of the Rooms was recognised early on, and the public were able to visit the War Rooms by appointment. However, the practicalities of allowing public access to a site beneath a working government office meant that only 4,500 of 30-40,000 annual applicants to visit the War Rooms could be admitted. During the 1970s the Cabinet Office and the Department for the Environment, which was responsible for the Rooms after 1975, raised the possibility of the museum taking over the War Rooms. The museum was reluctant due to its new commitments related to Duxford and HMS Belfast, but agreed in 1982. The scheme was keenly supported by the then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, an admirer of Britain's wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and she opened the War Rooms in April 1984.
Following a major expansion in 2003 a suite of rooms, used as accommodation by Churchill, his wife and close associates, were added to the museum. The restoration of these rooms, which since the war had been stripped out and used for storage, cost £7.5 million. In 2005 the War Rooms were rebranded as the Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms, with 850m2 of the site redeveloped as a biographical museum exploring Churchill's life. The museum, the development of which cost a further £6 milion raised from private fundraising, makes extensive use of audiovisual technology. The centrepiece is a 15m interactive table which enables visitors to access digitised material, particularly from the Churchill Archives Centre, via an 'electronic filing cabinet'.
The Imperial War Museum North was opened in Trafford, Greater Manchester in 2002, the first branch of the museum outside of southeast England. The museum's first floor main gallery space houses the permanent exhibitions. These consist of a chronological display which runs around the gallery's 200m perimeter and six thematic displays in 'silos' within the space. The walls of the gallery space are used as screens for the projection of an hourly audiovisual presentation, the Big Picture. Though exhibiting fewer large objects than other museum branches, Imperial War Museum North features in its main gallery a Russian T-34 tank, a United States Marine Corps AV-8B Harrier jet, and a British 18-pounder field gun which fired the British Army's first shot of the First World War. The museum also hosts a programme of temporary exhibitions, mounted in a separate gallery.
The project to construct a branch of the museum in the north of England, was launched in January 1999 by the then Culture Secretary Chris Smith. The new building was the first of the branches to be purpose-built as a museum. Designed by architect Daniel Libeskind, it was his first building in Britain. Libeskind’s building, overlooking the Manchester Ship Canal at Salford Quays, was based on the concept of a globe shattered by conflict into shards and reassembled. These shards, representing earth, air and water, give the building its shape. Originally budgeted at £40 million, the museum was eventually completed for £28.5 million after anticipated funding was not forthcoming. The museum was funded by local, national and European development agencies, by private donations and by Peel Holdings, a local transport and property company which contributed £12.5 million.
The Imperial War Museum has had three homes. Originally housed in the Crystal Palace at Sydenham Hill, in 1920, the museum moved to space in the Imperial Institute in South Kensington during 1924, and finally in 1936 the museum acquired a permanent home in the former Bethlem Royal Hospital in Southwark. The hospital building was designed by the hospital surveyor, James Lewis, from plans submitted by John Gandy and other architects, and construction completed in October 1814. The hospital consisted of a range of buildings 580 feet long with a basement and three storeys, parallel to Lambeth Road, with a central entrance under a portico.
The building was substantially altered in 1835 by architect Sydney Smirke. In order to provide more space, he added blocks at either end of the frontage, and galleried wings on either side of the central portion. He also added a small single-storey lodge, still in existence, at the Lambeth Road gate. Later, between 1844-46, the central cupola was replaced with a copper-clad dome in order to expand the chapel beneath. The building also featured a theatre in a building to the rear of the site.
The building remained substantially unchanged until vacated by the hospital in 1930. After the freehold was purchased by Lord Rothermere, the wings were demolished to leave the original central portion (with the dome now appearing disproportionately tall) and Smirke's later wings. When the museum moved into the building in 1936 the ground floor of the central portion was occupied by the principal art gallery, with the east wing housing the Naval gallery and the west wing the Army gallery. The Air Force gallery was housed in the former theatre. The first floor comprised further art galleries (including rooms dedicated to William Orpen and John Lavery), a gallery on women's war work, and exhibits relating to transport and signals. The first floor also housed the museum's photograph collection. The second floor housed the museum's library in its west wing, and in the east wing the map collection and stored pictures and drawings. This division of exhibits by service, and by civil or military activity, persisted until a wide-ranging redisplay of the galleries from the 1960s onwards.
The original hospital building is now largely occupied by corporate offices. A 1966 extension? houses the library, art store, and document archives.Redevelopments in the 1980s created exhibition space over five floors, along with the acquisition of the All Saints Annexe, a former hospital building in Austral Street off West Square. The 1867 building, which backs onto Geraldine Mary Harmsworth Park, was originally an orphanage opened by local philanthropist Charlotte Sharman, then later used as a hospital. It houses the museum's photographic, film and sound archives, and offices.
The Imperial War Museum's original collections date back to the material amassed by the National War Museum Committee. The present departmental organisation came into being during the 1960s as part of Frankland's reorganisation of the museum. The 1970s saw oral history gain increasing prominence and in 1972 the museum created the Department of Sound Records (now the Sound Archive) to record interviews with individuals who had experienced the First World War. Since the opening of the Holocaust and Crimes against Humanity exhibitions, a collecting department has been established to support them. The museum maintains an online database of its collections named Collections Online.
Material from the collections are displayed at each of the museum's branches, and on five levels at the Lambeth Road site. The basement is occupied by permanent galleries on the First and Second World Wars, and of conflicts since 1945. The ground floor comprises the atrium, cinema, temporary exhibition spaces, the permanent Children's War exhibition (extending into the basement), and visitor facilities. The first floor provides the atrium mezzanine, education facilities, and a permanent gallery, Secret War, exploring special forces, espionage and covert operations. The second floor features the atrium viewing balcony, two art galleries, a temporary exhibition area and the permanent Crimes against Humanity exhibition. The third floor houses the permanent Holocaust Exhibition, and the fourth floor provides a further exhibition area in the vaulted roof space. From November 2010 this area will accommodate the Lord Ashcroft Gallery, exhibiting the museum's own collection of Victoria and George Crosses, and the private collection of Victoria Crosses amassed by Michael Ashcroft.
There are eight departments responsible for different aspects of the museum's collections.
Since 1917 the museum has had six directors. The first was Sir Martin Conway, a noted art historian, mountaineer and explorer. He was knighted in 1895 for his efforts to map the Karakoram mountain range of the Himalayas, and was Slade Professor of Fine Arts at the University of Cambridge from 1901 to 1904. Conway held the post of Director until his death in 1937, when he was succeeded by Leslie Bradley. Bradley had served in the First World War in the Middlesex Regiment before being invalided out in 1917. He later became acquainted with Charles ffoulkes, who invited him to join the museum where he was initially engaged in assembling the museum's poster collection. Bradley retired in 1960 and was succeeded by Dr Noble Frankland. Frankland had served as a navigator in RAF Bomber Command, winning a Distinguished Flying Cross. While a Cabinet Office official historian he co-authored a controversial official history of the RAF strategic air campaign against Germany. Frankland retired in 1982 and was succeeded by Dr Alan Borg who had previously been at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts. In 1995 Borg moved to the Victoria and Albert Museum and was succeeded by Sir Robert Crawford, who had originally been recruited by Frankland as a research assistant in 1968. Upon Crawford's retirement in 2008 he was succeeded by Diane Lees, previously Director of the V&A Museum of Childhood. She was noted in the media as the first woman appointed to lead a British national museum
a. ^ The Visual Arts Data Service (VADS), hosted by the University for the Creative Arts, provides online access to a large number of images from the Imperial War Museum's collections. The images are copyright cleared and free for use in UK education and personal research. This includes over 7000 images from the museum's poster collection, digitised and catalogued as part of a project in partnership with Manchester Metropolitan University, and funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. See: Posters of Conflict, Concise Art Collectionand Spanish Civil War Poster Collection