What to expect in our new First World War Galleries

A detail of one of the projections featured in the new galleries. Image © Squint / Opera

Over the past 18 months we’ve been busy behind the scenes creating our new First World War Galleries, which open to the public on 19 July 2014. The digital media team is a key part of this development.

The previous First World War Galleries were designed in the late 1980s and opened to the public in 1990 before modern technology. Now, with a wide range of digital technologies at our disposal, we can offer new ways of presenting content for the visitor and put the surrounding objects into context.

In the new galleries, we will be using the wealth of our collections to tell the stories of the First World War, through the eyes of those who experienced it. Objects, both large and small, will sit alongside photographs and film, art and interactives. The digital media team works closely with the historians, the designers and the developers to ensure that we use the most appropriate digital technology to tell the stories of the First World War in new and thought-provoking ways.

An early drawing of the Life at the Front section featuring our Sopwith Camel plane and Mark V Tank. Image © Casson Mann

So what kind of digital experiences can the visitor expect to find in the new galleries? A section of the exhibition called Life at the Front – a recreated trench experience with a Sopwith Camel plane and Mark V tank – is designed to evoke what it could have been like for troops living in the open. Digital technology will bring the trench to life, giving visitors a sense of the conditions, events and activities that might have been experienced by troops. You’ll be able to experience thunderstorms, gas attacks or maybe just a brew being made.

In another area, through large digital interactive maps, you will be able to find out how, from the outset, the war became truly global, with fighting fronts emerging at sea, in Africa, the Pacific and Middle East and Ireland.

A highlight for me will be The Supply Line, a digital interactive table exploring the unprecedented scale of production required to keep troops at the front fed and fighting. Visitors will be required to help make shells, food and clothing to be sent to the front, supported by large, digitally enhanced, animations.

Two atmospheric reflection areas will feature thought-provoking objects. These emotive spaces have been designed to encourage visitors to think and reflect on whether war can have rules, the inevitable act of killing, and fears of being killed.

I can’t wait to see our visitors in the new galleries experiencing the stories of the First World War, enhanced through use of digital technology. I hope that it will prompt people to consider some of the big questions and choices that the people of Britain and its former Empire had to face during the ‘Great War’.

  1. Ian Stevens says: March 31, 20141:49 pm

    Appreciate any advice concerning people with mobility difficulties and the new galleries. Many Thanks.

    • David says: April 1, 20141:09 pm

      Hi Ian,

      Thanks for getting in touch. Our new galleries and the new museum will be accessible to people with mobility difficulties. There will be a new staircase in our new atrium and new lifts will ensure visitors are able to move more quickly and easily around the museum.

      We will be updating our website with the latest information on all our new facilities prior to re-opening so do visit iwm.org.uk before you plan to visit.

      Kind regards,

      David Salmon, Marketing Officer

  2. Nathaniel Saul says: April 1, 201411:04 pm

    I see that the IWM, despite getting the lion’s share of funding for the Great War centenary, is still asking the public to dig into their already put-upon pockets so they can tell the ‘story’ of a tobacco pipe or some similar nonsense through an ‘amusing’ interactive game that you might as well download as an app for your phone.

    Perhaps you should have considered the cost of it all before putting on some all-singing all-dancing techno show that passes itself off as ‘history’. But as long as TV’s Dan Snow (who is, apparently, an expert on everything) is fronting the multi-media ‘audio-visual’ experience, it’s all OK isn’t it?
    You greedy swine. Oh, and by the way, the kids will still think it’s boring.

    • David says: April 4, 20149:41 am

      Hi Nat,

      Thanks for getting in touch. Our recent blog post only covers one of the many elements that will be included in our new First World War Galleries. The new galleries will draw on our First World War collections – the richest and most comprehensive in the world – to present the story the First World War, including how it started, why it continued and its global impact, through the lives of those who experienced it on both the front line and the home front.

      Whilst we have received funding for the new galleries it is an ambitious project and we are asking for people to donate to the project so that we can continue to tell the stories of the men and women who lived and served on the fighting and home front during the First World War.

      You can find out more about our plans to mark the First World War Centenary, as well as our wider transformation at iwm.org.uk


      David, Marketing Officer

  3. Ian Stevens says: April 2, 20147:46 pm

    Appreciate prompt reply David. Will keep an “eye” on website. Can I be cheeky and recommend the War Museum in Warsaw.

  4. […] phenomenon” that is the history of World War I. (Meanwhile, I can’t wait to see the new WWI exhibit about to debut at the Imperial War Museum, just in time for the war’s […]

  5. Dan says: April 11, 20143:12 pm

    Looks like it will be a great improvement to IWM London. Any chance you could say which companies are involved in the design & build of the exhibition? Also, do you have plans for a new WW2 gallery in the future?

    • David says: April 11, 20144:24 pm

      Hi Dan,

      We’re certainly very excited about the new galleries! Lend Lease are our construction partners and the new Atrium was designed by Fosters + Partners. We have are also working with many contractors on the design and building of the new First World War Galleries.

      We do indeed have plans for a new Second World War gallery in future as part of our wider masterplan. When we re-open on 19 july a new floor in our Atrium – Level 1 will investigate key moments of the Second World War such as D-Day, the desert war and VJ Day. In addition our permanent exhibitions – A Family in Wartime, The Holocaust, The Lord Ashcroft Gallery and Secret War – all contain content related to the Second World War and its impact on people’s lives.

      I hope you are able to visit us when we re-open this summer to see the transformed museum!

      Kind regards,

      David – Marketing Officer

  6. Dan says: April 11, 20144:41 pm

    Thanks for the info David, can’t wait to visit & see the new galleries!

  7. David Taylor says: April 16, 20147:59 pm

    My wife and I are traveling down from Scotland in October to visit the new galleries, really looking forward to it. Visiting Arras again in September so this will be a fitting link during centenary year for us.

Submit comment