The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were at Imperial War Museum London last night (April 26 2012) for the official launch of the museum's centenary fundraising campaign.
Ambitious new £35 million plans for the Lambeth landmark will see the main atrium transformed and new purpose built First World Galleries built in time for the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War in 1914. To date the IWM has raised £20 million.
The Duke became Patron of the IWM First World War Centenary Campaign, a charitable trust set up to help generate funds for the project, in December 2010. In his speech he spoke of his pride in the role and the importance of the First World War in Britain’s history and heritage.
“Between 1914 and 1918, the peoples of Britain and the Commonwealth demonstrated extremes of resolve and courage that were to be repeated time and again over the coming years – and all in defence of freedom and our values,” he said.
“There can be no greater lesson than this for our modern generation, as we approach the Centenary. It is through this museum that it will be taught."
45% larger than the museum’s existing First World War galleries, the IWM plans to utilise the new space to display much more of its world renowned First World War Collection.
The emphasis will be on personal stories and unlocking more of its art, film, sound recording and photography collections as well as a wealth of personal objects including letters and diaries.
The reception was hosted by Viscount and Viscountess Rothermere, whose forebears gifted the former Bethlem hospital that now forms IWM London to the nation as a memorial museum to all who died in the First World War.
In the intervening years the IWM has gone on to effectively represent the story of humanity in all 20th century and 21st century conflicts, but the approach of the 1914 centenary gives the current plans an extra resonance.
In his speech, Viscount Rothermere explained how the death of Vere Harmsworth, his great uncle and his brother Vyvyan, who was awarded the MC before he died of his wounds, inspired his great grandfather to donate the building to the Imperial War Museum.
“He was determined that the selflessness and heroism of the entire generation would always be remembered, would always be honoured and would always be part of our national story,” he said.
“I share that determination. If imaginative and intellectual engagement with the past matters, if a sense of personal connectedness to those who have gone before matters, which it surely does, then this museum and our centenary campaign matter too.”
The new gallery, which has already received the go-ahead to apply for a £4.5 million Heritage Lottery Fund grant towards the costs, is due to be completed by summer 2014.
- IWM London is leading a four-year programme of cultural activities across the country in commemoration of the First World War centenary. Find out more at www.1914.org