Imperial War Museum relaunches to mark WWI centenary

Casson Mann has designed the ‘ground-breaking’ new First World War Galleries at Imperial War Museum London, which is preparing to commemorate the centenary of WW1 with a reopening in July.

How the Deadlock area of the First World War Galleries might look
How the Deadlock area of the First World War Galleries might look

The museum is undergoing a major reconfiguration led by Foster + Partners and will feature a new atrium to showcase large objects as part of a masterplan which sets out a new circulation and orientation with exhibitions organised chronologically by floor.

Supported by ‘architectural fins’ these floors overlook the atrium from new terraced windows.

Casson Mann has designed the First World War Galleries, as well as Second World War and post-war galleries.  

In the First World War Galleries on the basement and ground levels, there will be around 70 audio-visual displays directly linked to objects, as well as touch-screen interactives, and narrative accounts from the time.

How the Total War area of the First World War Galleries might look
How the Total War area of the First World War Galleries might look

Casson Mann associate John Pickford says, ‘It’s a contemporaneous time-based experience so there are no quotes from outside the period, no memoirs; all correspondence you read will be letters from the time.’

Pickford says the galleries will look to answer ‘Why the war happened? Why it continued? Why it wasn’t stopped and how it ended?’

It will also examine the war from the home front as well as the front line. ‘Not many people are as familiar with the home front in the First World War as the might be with the Second World War.’

There will be 14 sections to the First World War Galleries including Feeding the Front, which explores stories of the home front, while Supply Line, a 4m interactive table, shows the scale of production needed to feed troops.

Visitors to the First World War Galleries will be able to walk the Trench Experience
Visitors to the First World War Galleries will be able to walk the Trench Experience

Elsewhere Life at The Front features a real Sopwith Camel plane and Mark V tank looming over a recreated trench, which can be explored by visitors who will enter an immersive soundscape.

The museum says ‘atmospheric reflection areas’ will draw on the resource of the IWM Sound Archive and encourage visitors to pause and explore the most difficult questions and consequences of war including the act of killing and being killed.

Wherever possible the galleries will offer ‘tactile experiences’ allowing visitors to touch real objects, says Pickford.

The redesigned atrium space will contain objects including a Harrier, Spitfire, and V2 rocket suspended from the ceiling, as well as a T34 tank and a Reuters Landrover damaged by a rocket attack in Gaza, at ground level.

The first floor will tackle the Second World War, looking at strategic bombing, the Russian and African fronts and D-Day landings where objects, film and artworks will be displayed.

The upper floors have been devoted to conflicts from 1945 to the present day, looking at topics including the rebuilding of Europe and the way conflicts have been fought and communities divided in countries including Ireland, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

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