Visitors Flood Imperial War Museum on WWI Centenary

The IWM's Norman Foster designed Atrium. Photo: IWM

After its £40 million ($64 million) redevelopment, the Imperial War Museum in London (IWM) reopened this summer to accompany the centenary of World War One. The Wall Street Journal reports that visitor numbers have surged since the museum reopened its doors, jumping from 3,000 visitors a day to 8,000 – double the museum staff’s expectations.

According to curators at the museum, if a visitor spent just 15 seconds at each exhibit, it would take five-and-a-half hours to see all of the 1,300 items within its galleries.

The museum is dedicated to every conflict in which the British have been involved, spanning from 1914 to the present conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. It now boasts some impressive new galleries and features, including a 52-foot-long, 8-foot-high recreation of a WWI trench and an atrium designed by star architect Norman Foster.

The atrium includes nine exhibits, entitled “Witnesses to War”  and including a Harrier jump jet and a Spitfire hanging from the ceiling. On the floor sits artist Jeremy Deller’s Baghdad (2009), wreckage from a car blown up in Iraq in a bombing that claimed 38 lives.

Paul Cornish, senior Curator of the First World War Gallery, told the Wall Street Journal: “The task of the museum is to present a record of everyone’s experiences during…war—civilian and military—and to commemorate the sacrifices of all sections of society, not to take sides or glorify it.”

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