Imperial War Museum Reopens to Mark WWI Centenary

After undergoing £40 million restoration, the Imperial War Museum opens up its doors once again to the public. With its reopening come new galleries to mark WWI’s centenary celebration.

Part of the restoration project of the Imperial War Museum is the brand-new atrium which was designed by Lord Foster’s firm — the Foster and Partners. The new area showcases nine major objects with 391 more coming. Reportedly, 60 of these upcoming displays are never-before-seen exhibits.

The newly reconstructed First World War galleries of the Imperial War Museum retell the Great War through the eyes of the British people as well as those belonging to the Empire.

It can be remembered that the Imperial War Museum had been completely closed down six months earlier. The closing down was because of the overhauling work made to coincide with the centenary of the start of the Great War.

The First World War is an important part in the annals of British history. Because of this war, almost a million British soldiers died. Additionally, no family within the country was left untouched by the tentacles of the Great War which lasted from 1914 to 1918. British men to war and British women were left to pick up in their wake.

In line with the reconstruction project, the new First World War galleries in the Imperial War Museum are three times bigger compared to their sizes before the overhaul. Furthermore, the galleries house about 1,300 WWI mementos with exhibits including weapons and uniforms. These said displays explain why and how men marched off to war in the trenches with millions never to return again.

Nevertheless, it will be the small objects in display — personal letters, photos of families and sweethearts the soldiers carried, wallets and even diaries kept in the front lines — that people will find the most moving.

Additionally, there will be multimedia presentations regarding the tragic Battle of the Somme, which horrifically took the lives of 20,000 British soldiers on its first day. There will also be a walk-in “trench” here visitors will get the feel of how trench life was during the Great War.

Imperial War Museum inside
Inside the Imperial War Museum

But the newly reopened Imperial War Museum does not only showcase relics from the First World War. It also documents the history of warfare over the last 100 years and this includes the Second World War, the Falklands and even the so-called War on Terror which started at the advent of the 21st century.

New displays in the Imperial War Museum include a debris from the World Trade Center destroyed during the 9/11 terror attacks,  Desert Hawk drone and even a suitcase of a Jewish couple interred in the notorious Auschwitz concentration camp.

Looking back, the Imperial War Museum was founded in 1917. Even while the Great War raged on, there was the aim to preserve the stories of the individuals who fought and died through the gallery.

It was the first Lord Rothermere, who had three sons, but lost the two to war, who donated the site where the Imperial War Museum sits to this day way back in 1930.

As expected, the new galleries will bring up to 1 million visitors every year, reinforcing the position of the Imperial War Museum as the world’s renowned gallery on modern warfare.

Heziel Pitogo

Heziel Pitogo is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE