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Imperial War Museum

Front view of the Imperial War Museum

Front view of the Imperial War Museum

It is not uncommon for countries and cultures to make an attempt to preserve their histories through the creation of museums. Most countries have hundreds of museums preserving different aspects of their cultures or histories. While some museums hold little appeal, even for the citizens of the native country, many museums are popular tourist attractions for locals and visitors alike. One such museum is the Imperial War Museum, which extends over five locations throughout the United Kingdom.

Fighting Wars From Then To Now

The Imperial War Museum has locations in five British cities: London, Whitehall, Duxford, Trafford, and the Pool of London. Each location features many unique attractions. The Imperial War Museum aims to study and understand the history of modern war and the experience of war, as well as encourage the study of these topics by others.

These goals are implemented through the preservation of the history of World War I and all wars that have occurred in Britain and the Commonwealth since that time.

Imperial war museum on Lambeth road

Imperial war museum on Lambeth road

The Imperial War Museum’s different branches feature permanent displays, archives, special exhibitions, education programs, and special events. The contents and activities of the museum are partially funded by the government, but its ambitious programs require donations from the public.

A Personal Investment

One reason for the Imperial War Museum’s popularity, especially among locals, is the resources it provides. The museum contains more than 270,000 items in its national library, and it makes these resources available to the public. This allows people searching for relatives that may have died in one of the featured wars to conduct an investigation and perhaps uncover some answers.

These archives and records are not only available at the library, but also on the Imperial War Museum’s website. The site features a search bar allowing searchers to find records regarding their relatives—all without leaving the comfort of their own homes!

A Historic Start

The Imperial War Museum was first founded in 1917. The original purpose of the museum was to recognize and recount the contributions of the British in the Great War, now known as World War I. Formally, the museum did not open until 1920, when an Act of Parliament established a board of trustees as the museum’s governing body.

The original Imperial War Museum was housed in the Crystal Palace, but it has moved and been extended several times throughout the past century. The museum occupied two small galleries adjacent to the Imperial Institute from 1924 to 1935, and in 1936 it was reopened in the former Bethlem Royal Hospital in London.

Inside the Imperial War Museum

Inside the Imperial War Museum

Since then, the museum has expanded to its other locations. The Duxford Airfield, located near Cambridge, was acquired for use as storage for artifacts and a public museum in 1976. A preserved World War II cruiser, the HMS Belfast, opened in the Pool of London as a public museum in 1978. In Whitehall in 1984, the Cabinet War Rooms became part of the Imperial War Museum. Most recently, the Trafford location of the museum was opened in 2002.

Not only has the Imperial War Museum expanded physically, but it has expanded its original purpose as well. In 1939, the Board of Trustees decided to incorporate World War II into the museum, and in 1953 it was decided to include all military operations or conflicts that Britain has been involved in since the First World War.

A Sight To See

The Imperial War Museum is considered one of the most essential sights to see in London. If you are visiting the United Kingdom from another country, a visit to the Imperial War Museum is essential in order to fully appreciate Britain’s history in culture. If you live nearby, gaining a better appreciation for your own culture and history couldn’t hurt.

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