Imperial War Museum

  • Museums
  • Military and maritime
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© Michelle Grant / Time Out
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Ministry of Food poster © Imperial War Museum
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© Imperial War Museum
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©Michelle Grant / Time Out
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© Roman Halter
Kennington Free

The IWM London has had on a major refit - by Foster & Partners architects - which opened in 2014 to coincide with the centenary of the start of World War I. The Central Hall is still the attention- grabbing repository of major artefacts: guns, tanks and aircraft hung from the ceiling (not least a Harrier GR9 that saw action in Afghanistan). Terraced galleries allow this section of the museum to also show a Snatch Land Rover from Iraq and an Argentine operating table from the Falklands. The already extensive World War I gallery has been expanded, and leads into the original displays for World War II.

The museum’s tone darkens as you ascend. On the third floor, the Holocaust Exhibition (not recommended from under-14s) traces the history of European anti-Semitism and its nadir in the concentration camps. Upstairs, Crimes Against Humanity (unsuitable for under-16s) is a minimalist space in which a film exploring contemporary genocide and ethnic violence rolls relentlessly.

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Venue name: Imperial War Museum
Contact:
Address: Lambeth Rd
London
SE1 6HZ
Opening hours: Daily 10am-6pm (last admission 5.30pm)
Transport: Tube: Lambeth North
Price: Free

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  • Until Sunday September 6 2015 Free
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  • Until Monday May 30 2016 Free
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  • Thursday September 3 2015 - Sunday September 6 2015 Free
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Average User Rating

3.7 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:6
  • 4 star:4
  • 3 star:2
  • 2 star:1
  • 1 star:2
LiveReviews|15
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Will J

The Museum has changed in design over the past few years, I visited it a few years ago. The building layout is not as efficient as I remembered, but the content is still very interesting with the primary focus on the World Wars. The Holocaust exhibition is particularly shocking and is very well detailed. It is a shame they got rid of the old WWI Trench feature, as I had always felt that this was one of the primary attractions of the museum. It is arguably a bit one dimensional in terms of the artefacts and historical information on show – I found there was too much text to read. Whilst this is perfect for a war historian, it does not branch out to the public so much. An enjoyable and informative experience nonetheless.

K M
Staff Writer

One of my favourite museums in London. Everytime you visit you come away learning something new and discovering things you didnt know before. I visited both before and after the major refit and in all honestly i preferred it before the refurb as it was alot easier to navigate round the building. However, since the refurb they've got a new area dedicated to wars of the modern age and covers tragic events such as 9/11 and the war in Iraq - Steve McQueen's art installation for all the fallen soldiers from the Iraq war is a very moving and touching tribute.

Tatiana N
Staff Writer

Went there with my partner on a lazy rainy sunday and really enjoyed it. Of course it's all around war /military so you get to see tanks, airplanes, weapons, some interesting part of History that we shouldn't forget. Def recommend it. 

Frederick W

The IWM used to be my favourite museum in London, even sneaking ahead of the much larger and grander Natural History Museum.  However, as Abe C has said and I mentioned on their website pre-refurbishment, the new building works have almost ruined it.


Before you were struck with awe as you entered the museum and saw all the tanks seemingly rolling towards you and the planes flyinh up above, silhouetted against the great glass ceiling.  When I enter it now I feel like I am in some sort of building site with the natural light blocked out by a huge and currently empty platform.  It is too grey, dark and most of the best vehicles have been removed from the entrance.

This then had the upsetting effect of making the galleries for the later conlicts tiny and again having had most of their major attractions removed in favour of random pieces of modern artwork to symbolise war.  Additionally, and for me the worst thing a museum can do, the upstairs exhibits had a paucity of information, especially about each object.  On my first visit they didn't even put the information next to what object they described, instead sticking it all on one small sign in a corner.  This has since been corrected but still leaves much do be desired.


Most upsetting for me, as someone who loves the First World War, is that they have spent this fortune only to make the exhibit worse.  There is too little information and everything is dumbed down.  Even the wonderful tank that had been in the museum entrance no longer has the same effect because you are forced to view it from below and at only one angle while standing in the pitiful new trench that conjures nothing like the sense of foreboding that terrified so many young children in the old model trench.


For any previous visiter the refurbishments will be a huge let down, however, FOR ANYONE WHO HAS NEVER BEEN BEFORE, IT STILL OFFERS SOME OF THE GREAT HISTORICAL PIECES YOU WILL NOT SEE ELSEWHERE IN LONDON.

Abe C

The refurbishment is poor, and the new curation pretty awful too - a superb museum has been seriously undone.

The museum formerly had light galleries either side, lit from the ceiling mainly by daylight, and large terraces in front of the main stairs at the end of the hall, which had space for exhibits and for visitors to look out at aeroplanes from both wars and a V2, and down onto the main floor where there were tanks from both wars and a WW1 era bus for driving soldiers to the front.

Now the roof's daylighting is mostly obscured by a new screen and everything is mainly artificially lit.  The main floor has been lowered to basement level by excavating, and two new steel staircases have been added, one at the terraces end in front of the terraces, and the other at the main door end.  These stairs do not easily allow visitors to look out over the hall, whilst at the terrace end they obscure the view from the terraces too.  The P51 and all WW1 planes are gone.  A huge Harrier jump jet occupies most space, and is too big to view.  You can no longer view from the earlier small terrace at the front end - it has been removed.  The WW1 tank and bus are gone (why, especially in the centenary of WW1's outbreak?!?) and the main hall accommodates many fewer exhibits.

The sides of the halls have inexplicably had clunky great columns added, from which peer the snout of a desert landrover and the front of a Dunkirk jolly boat (why? We can't see them well, and they're made to look ridiculous.)

Many of the exhibits are big glass cases rearranged in GCSE History manner.  For example a map of the North Sea, a tiny model of a surface vessel, and a piece of tailplane from a shot down Heinkel.  Why?  Can't we think for ourselves?

The lighting is harsh, shadowed and disagreeable compared with its earlier, pleasant arrangement.


This museum is still worth visiting but there is no getting away from it - the museum has been badly damaged at vast public expense (I read £40m,) and is a shadow of its former self.  Fosters Architects should be absolutely ashamed - their work fails practically (the absurd, unneeded stairs, cluttering and obscuring, and the removal of daylight,) and stylistically (Fosters should have thought hard about the skill of their predecessors and the need to make any stylistic change whatsoever.)


Laurence Butler

To put it simply, to visit the Imperial War Museum is a must for every single person on the planet! At the very least a compulsory trip should be available for every British school child.

Kristina

This is definitely my favorite museum in London, to come alone or to bring a date or a family member. The exhibition on Holocaust has left a lasting impression and the general variety of themes exhibited really taught me a lot that afternoon. Cannot wait to see what's new next time I visit!

PS

Still love going here after first being taken on a school trip.

Lyndon

Excellent museum with no queues! I took two children 11 and 13 and they loved it.

ayla

I love the war museum - it is definitely my all time favourite in London. It not only is interesting but gets you involved too and the 'old' feel it has to it makes it even better. The smell of the war musuem is one never to forget either...

Mr D Foster

I would wait until the refurbishments are finished, all the big things are gone from the main attrium and the down stairs is closed. The holocoust exhibition is excellent and the medals gallery in the loft are both excellent. My previous visit would have been 5 star, but my kids were disappionted by the missing stuff.

Nathan

Amazing for anyone with the slightest hint of interest in WWI & II. The cannons and shells out front are enough to make it worth stopping by. Also has a memorable section dedicated to the Holocaust. "The Blitz Experience" is a bit dated, but the museum would be fine without it. Couldn't of been happier to spend about 4 hours there.