(Imperial) War (Museum), What is it good for? Quite a lot actually

There’s been a drop recently in the number of ‘idea’ posts. Originally this was due to the imminent move to London but now I’m here surely the flood gates should open?

Apparently not.

Now this certainly has nothing to do with a lack of ideas. The issue actually comes from how easy it is to go and implement any ideas so I’m going to dive straight into the pictures and let everyone know what I’ve been up to.

I’ve begun the mammoth task of visiting as many of London’s museum as I can and the Imperial War Museum was on this weeks list.

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Can you really call a museum a ‘War Museum’ if it doesn’t have a pair of 15″ Naval guns on the lawn?, Imperial War Museum, London, 07/12/2017

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Once you’ve made it past the lawn cannons and in to the museum all you have to do is navigate past a Spitfire, Harrier Jump-jet and a V1 to make it to the exhibits, Imperial War Museum, London, 07/12/2017

My weapon of choice for the IWM was the Loxia 35mm having wanted more width in the Natural History Museum than the Sony 55mm provided – I must resist the urge to spend rent money on a wider lens!

The IWM has quite a range of exhibits spanning from the First World War Galleries through to the current day with it’s Age of Terror: Art since 9/11 exhibit. I think it’s important to not think of the IWM as some sort of shrine to war or that it glorifies war in anyway as that’s certainly not the impression I received from my visit. The overriding message, for me, was that the IWM’s function is to bring the realities of war and the impact it has to public attention.

The IWM was established in 1917 whilst the First World War still raged to do just that. Images and videos had been shown at cinema’s to this end but the IWM was founded “to commemorate the effort and sacrifices made by all” and would eventually encompass “all conflicts since 1914 involving Britain or the Commonwealth” (IWM Guidebook 2017).

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A Mark V goes over the top of the model trenches in the WW1 exhibit, Imperial War Museum, London, 07/12/2017

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A shadow puppet takes aim in the trenches at the WW1 exhibit, Imperial War Museum, London, 07/12/2017

The First World War exhibit did this brilliantly and in a variety of different ways such as the trench scenes above with moving shadows giving an impression of what life in the trenches was like. Clearly the conditions in the trenches can not been reproduced but other areas of the exhibit allude to how they would have been by using images and telling the stories behind displayed items.

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To help navigate the miles of trenches signs were erected displaying the name of that particular area of trench or to give a bit of advice, Imperial War Museum, London, 07/12/2017

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A mass produced hand grenade based entirely on the home-made (well, trench-made) jam-tin versions being used in the trenches, Imperial War Museum, London, 07/12/2017

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“A canvas and steel tree observation post. Near Souchez, 15 May 1918”, Yep, that’s an observation post disguised as a tree with a man stood inside it, this image is from the IWM collection

My favourite form of story telling at the exhibit is, unsurprisingly, the photos and videos. The IWM holds 11 million photos in its collection from 1914 to present day and, for me, not enough is made of this as the hundreds on show in the WW1 exhibit are staggering. Photographers were initially met with disdain from the soldiers fighting for their lives in the trenches but as the war continued their role in sharing the experiences of those soldiers with the World was appreciated. Not only were the images and videos used in the cinemas to show the public the war in Europe but they were used in trying to convince America to commit their forces. At the IWM they are used to tell the stories of those  fighting or caught up in conflict but unfortunately modern images are now more usually seen plastered across newspapers to make money.

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Ypres Sector. well constructed trench. Trench sign post in background. May 1917“, Inside a German trench taken by an official German photographer, IWM Collection

If you have any interest in military history from 1915 onward (in particular the two World Wars) I couldn’t recommend the online IWM collection highly enough as it contains items that I didn’t know existed – I do wish though that they’d upload their collection of videos and sound files to YouTube as they’d would reach a much wider audience and they’d bypass the whole Flash player problem I keep getting.  Anyway, those interested click here.

Having rambled on a bit I’ll just briefly mention the Holocaust exhibit at the IWM. Again this is a thoughtfully done exhibit although I didn’t spend nearly as much time here as I did in the WW1 exhibit as I visited Auschwitz and Schindler’s Factory earlier this year. The biggest compliment I can pay the exhibit is that it took me immediately back to that trip so I would still recommend it to those that have visited Auschwitz but if you’ve not visited Auschwitz this exhibit is a must see.

No pics from that exhibit as there was no photography allowed so here’s one of a spitfire.

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They’re much bigger than they look at airshows!, Imperial War Museum, London, 07/12/2017

I had a pootle about the modern exhibits then headed on back to Waterloo only to find that it was rush hour. Not really fancying playing sardines I carried on down to the Thames to take a few pics before getting a later train so I’ll leave you with those.

Doug

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Southbank shopping centre & cranes looking very festive, London, 07/12/2017

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Nice place to stop for a chat, London, 07/12/2017

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Homeward bound, London, 07/12/2017

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