What a job!

Concept for IWM Atrium © Foster + Partners

Concept for IWM Atrium © Foster + Partners

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 Harrier arriving at IWM Duxford

The Harrier that will go on display in the transformed Atrium at IWM London is currently undergoing conservation work at IWM Duxford.

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.

Wurzburg Radar being cleaned by conservator at IWM London

Wurzburg Radar being cleaned by conservator at IWM London.

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.

  1. Conor Scott says: December 19, 20121:03 pm

    Is the Spitfire to be repainted?
    There’s currently debate about it on the key publishing forum.
    Most are against the idea.

    • Allison says: December 20, 20121:00 pm

      Hi Conor. We have no plans to repaint the aircraft at this stage. Due to the history of this aircraft it would be a last resort and not a decision that we would take lightly.

  2. PPC says: March 6, 201311:13 am

    Allison, repainting does look like a tough decision but I think it is something that needs to be done sooner or later. What do you think?

    • Allison says: March 14, 201310:28 am

      Hello. The Spitfire has been preserved and is presented as she was received by IWM shortly after the Second World War. We wouldn’t wish to repaint the aircraft if at all possible because it would compromise the historical authenticity of this unique and important aircraft. We’d like to retain as much originaility as possible.

      Thank you for your question.

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