First opened to the public in 1920, the Imperial War Museum (IWM) was intended to record the civil and military war effort and sacrifice of Britain and its Empire during the First World War. In 1936 the museum acquired its present permanent home on the Lambeth Road in London.
The scope of the museum has now expanded to include all conflicts in which British or Commonwealth forces have been involved since 1914. As from 2012 the aim of the museum has been defined as the provision for and encouragement of the study and understanding of the history of modern war and the ‘wartime experience’. To this end IWM has become a group of five museums. The others are IWM North in Manchester, a museum of aviation history at Duxford in Cambridgeshire, the Churchill War Rooms in Whitehall, London and HMS Belfast moored on the River Thames in London.
The museum’s collections include archives of personal and official documents, photographs, film and video material, and oral history recordings; an extensive library, a large art collection. There are also examples of military vehicles, aircraft, military equipment and other artefacts. Visitors can see exhibits from the First World War including trench warfare and the Battle of Jutland, the largest naval battle during that war. There are items and film archive from the Second World War including the ‘Blitz’ in London. Later conflicts such as the Korean War and more recently the war in Afghanistan are also covered.
The current building was previously the Bethlem Royal Hospital, which was completed in 1815. Commonly referred to by its nickname Bedlam, the hospital was designed to house patients suffering from mental illness.
Many special events and tours take place throughout the year. For further information go to http://www.iwm.org.uk/visits/iwm-london
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