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IWM London explores people’s experiences of modern war and conflict.
Following substantial redevelopment, IWM London reopened on 19 July 2014 – the exact centenary of the First World War.
The £40 million renovation included the construction of the First World War galleries, the redesign of the atrium with special large object displays – including a Harrier jet, Spitfire plane and V2 rocket – and a new café that opens directly onto Geraldine Mary Harmsworth Park.
Several existing galleries remain; A Family in Wartime, Secret War, Extraordinary Heroes and the Holocaust Exhibition. IWM London also hosts a series of temporary displays, and runs a contemporary art programme that addresses issues surrounding war and conflict today.
At the heart of the renovation was the creation of new permanent First World War galleries, which opened on the centenary of the conflict. The galleries explore the war through the eyes of the people in Britain and its empire, from its early origins to the Allies' victory, and its wider global impact. Special focus is given to the Battle of Somme, which raged on for over five months at a devastating cost to human life, as well as to life on the front – from what the soldiers wore and ate, to the conditions they lived in and how they entertained themselves. Further areas of exploration include the role of women and children, technologies and tactics used in combat and the work of war artists and photographers.
On display within the galleries are over 1,300 objects drawn from IWM's First World War collections – the richest and most comprehensive in the world. These range from weapons, uniforms and equipment to diaries and letters, keepsakes and trinkets, photographs, film and paintings. Among the most notable are a French 75mm field gun, which contributed to the deaths of a million men in just four months of fighting in 1914 and items from the Christmas Truce, including a button from a German tunic that was given to a British soldier as a souvenir.