What a job!
Our team’s job is to select and shape the displays for the new Atrium and what you see as you first step into IWM London.
The challenge is how to draw all the complexity of conflict – its overwhelming forces and extraordinary human experiences – into one relatively small space.
Our approach is to try to create a selection of objects from across the museum’s collection that would not just represent the collections by type – for example, tanks, aircraft, uniforms, artillery and weaponry, media and propaganda – but also by the intent shown in their design, their use, abuse, and survival. We wanted a selection of the familiar alongside the odd, the pristine alongside the damaged beyond recognition.
A recently acquired Harrier will hang alongside the Spitfire, ensuring we retain the wonder and excitement that visitors have come to expect. Other objects prompt different reactions: the story of the bombed car from Baghdad is painfully clear; an iconic T34 tank comes with a complex story of how it has been displayed previously at IWM London; an operating table, captured during the Falklands war, represents a rare place where all are treated equally; but the dinghy thrown from the Japanese kamikaze plane, offers more questions than answers.
The Atrium will feature objects chosen for their rich and vivid stories. As you travel up through the museum from floor to floor, the stories of conflict on the balconies will move chronologically through the Second World War to current conflicts such as Afghanistan.
Framed and caged by the new dramatic architecture of our transformed Atrium, collection objects, such as a lifeboat, a radar, demob suits, an x-ray machine, point to groups of items displayed behind and yet more riches with film, art, photographs and documents that visitors will be able to encounter.
What a job!
In the new year we’ll be back with another update on how we group objects to tell complex stories of conflict and also how people will be able to interact with objects and displays. Stay tuned.