Archive Category:
Our History
The British Camouflage Tree

The British camouflage tree observation post. Image © IWM (FEQ 854)

This British camouflage tree observation post is one of the more unusual objects in our collection. Its journey from the fields of the Western Front to display in our new First World War Galleries, nearly one hundred years later, tells us much about the way that the First World War was fought but also how its impact is still with us today in unexpected and surprising ways.

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I am pleased to announce that the IWM Short Film Festival resurfaces after a three year break!

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A poster for Crystal Palace with the Great War Exhibition – Imperial War Museum which opened on 9 June 1920.

Plans to erect a replica of the Crystal Palace in south London have recently been unveiled, but how much do we know about the building’s use after the Great Exhibition of 1851?

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The Imperial War Museum, 1935 : Showing the main art gallery under construction. Image © IWM (Art.IWM ART LD 509)

As everyone gears up for our partial reopening of IWM London on 29 July, here is our short guide to museum openings of yesteryear.

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The Young Reporters in the recording studio

The Young Reporters in the recording studio

As our Young Reporters tell us in their new podcast series, it’s time to kick back, relax, get a cup of tea and listen to our podcast about how IWM London is Transforming!

Our first podcast in this new six-part series explores how IWM has developed throughout its 96 year history as we get the inside scoop on what big physical changes are happening at IWM London since we temporarily closed earlier this year. In case you haven’t heard, IWM London partially re-opens on 29 July.

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An octagonal kitchen building at Royal Bethlem Hospital, early 20th Century. LSC-210, courtesy of Bethlem Art and History Collections Trust

An octagonal kitchen building at Royal Bethlem Hospital, early twentieth century. Courtesy of Bethlem Art and History Collections Trust (LSC-210)

As work gets underway on the transformation of IWM London and the Large Exhibits Gallery specifically, we thought it might be good to take a look at how that particular space has evolved over the years.

The Imperial War Museum moved  to Lambeth Road in 1936, taking over the central section of the former Bethlem Royal Hospital. The building, completed in 1815, was constructed around a courtyard where the Chief Physician had his garden.

As the number of patients grew, the garden was replaced by an octagonal kitchen building, shown above in the early twentieth century. Before IWM moved in, the kitchen was demolished to make way for three single storey exhibition galleries.

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The remains of Surrey Lodge following a V2 explosion in 1945

The remains of Surrey Lodge, an apartment building destroyed by a V2 rocket on 4 January 1945. The photograph was apparently taken on the following day and graphically shows how a 5 storey building was reduced to rubble. Image courtesy of Lambeth Archives.

Barely 150 metres from IWM London today is the site of the most destructive explosion in Lambeth during the Second World War, which killed 43 people.  Just before 8.30pm on the night of Thursday 4 January 1945 a huge explosion destroyed an apartment building, Surrey Lodge, on the corner of Kennington Road and Lambeth Road. The old Lambeth Baths and a chapel on the opposite side of Lambeth Road were also severely damaged.  The blast also extensively damaged the northern and western sides of the Imperial War Museum as well as many surrounding buildings.

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Moving a gun into the Imperial Institute in 1924

Moving a gun into the Imperial Institute in 1924. 275 loads of exhibits weighing approximately 800 tons were moved during this period, with only three instances of minor damage to objects reported.  IWM (Q 36932)

Museum objects are seldom static – displays, exhibitions and research material move around all the time.   Transforming IWM London is just the latest in a long series of major moves, from the move to Crystal Palace in 1920, to the opening of AirSpace at IWM Duxford in 2006.

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