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.
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.
19th century print showing the exterior of the Bethlem Royal Hospital © IWM (Q82924)
The National War Museum was founded in 1917 when the government decided that a museum should be set up to collect and display material related to the First World War, which was still being fought. Interest from the Dominion governments led to a change in name to Imperial War Museum. It was formally established by Act of Parliament in 1920.