On the evening of November 20 1983, 100 million Americans settled down to watch Nicholas Meyer’s made-for-TV film The Day After. The film’s focus was a familiarly normal community in rural Eastern Kansas in the lead up to, and aftermath of, nuclear war. It is shocking and arrestingly bleak viewing; moreover it was, and remained for years afterwards, the most highly rated TV film in US broadcast history. Its importance however, lies less in its status as a landmark media event than in what it demonstrates about the cultural imagination in the 1980s. The deterioration in relations between NATO and the Warsaw Pact raised for a new generation the meaningful prospect of nuclear apocalypse. The Day After is only one example of a notable manifestation of a contemporaneous burgeoning – and now largely forgotten – paranoia in the popular culture of the time. It’s my conviction – and the focus for my PhD research – that such fictional responses don’t just reflect the paranoia that was a product of the period, but that that they ultimately made a necessary and significant contribution to the eventual outcome.Read More
As we look forward to the New Year and begin to plan the various projects which will keep us busy over 2016, it is always useful to take a step back and consider the progress already made. For over forty years, IWM has preserved one of the most important sound archives of its kind in the world. Established in 1972, the Department of Sound Records, as it was then called, was an offspring of the museum’s Library which at that point included a handful of gramophone records. The following decades saw the collection grow in size until, following a major restructuring in 2010, it was merged with the Department of Documents to form the Documents and Sound Section, with myself appointed as the new Section Head.Read More
The official history of the Cold War holds that the military and political divide between Eastern and Western blocs was cemented in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War as allied relationships cooled.Read More
Kathryn Butler, a CDP student at the IWM and Open University, discusses her reactions to the ‘Sensory War 1914-2014’ exhibition.
During a recent trip to the Manchester City Art Gallery, I was intrigued to see the results of several great individuals and institutions working together as part of this year’s First World War Centenary commemorations. Sensory War 1914-2014 was co-curated by Dr Ana Carden Coyne, a director at the Centre of the Cultural History of War at the University of Manchester, where I studied for my MA. The centre works closely with IWM North in Salford, and many works on display were from the IWM collections.Read More
For over forty years the Royal Air Force was in the frontline of Britain’s Cold War defences. Recording the first half of this dynamic period were a small number of specialist aviation photographers from the Air Ministry’s (later Ministry of Defence’s) Photographic Reproduction Branch (PRB) who produced a unique collection of 10,000 colour images. PRB’s chief photographer for much of this period was Mike Chase MM, one of the country’s most experienced aviation photographers.Read More
When IWM London’s First World War Galleries re-opened on 19th July 2014, the queues extended past the big naval guns and out of the gates to the north of the building. On the first day, over 8,000 people came to visit the museum and 60,134 people had come to visit within the first week. Timed entry was also allocated to visitors to prevent overcrowding within the new exhibition.
Photographs from 40 years ago show almost identical queues. However, these were for the Radio Times Colditz Escape Exhibition.Read More
Research Manager at IWM London, Emily Peirson-Webber, describes the history of Budapest’s Hospital in the Rock after a recent trip to the Hugarian capital.
During my recent trip to Budapest, I discovered the enigmatically named ‘Hospital in the Rock’. The site, which appears in the New York Times list of the top ten places to visit in the Hungarian capital and was nominated in the 2014 European Museum of the Year Awards, is still in its infancy as a visitor attraction – it was first opened to the public on a one-off basis in 2007.
The history of the Hospital in the Rock is compelling. Housed in a natural cave system spanning around 10km and located under Budapest’s Castle Hill (a 1km-long plateau situated 170m above the Danube); the site has been in use since the medieval period. However, it was during the Second World War that the caves took on a particularly important role for the city, due to their uniquely sheltered position.Read More