Prince Philip Declares The Imperial War Museum North Open

By Zoe Graham | 24 July 2002
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open since July 5, HRH the Duke of Edinburgh has made it official. Image courtesy BBCi © BBC

Left: open since July 5, HRH the Duke of Edinburgh has made it official. Image courtesy BBCi © BBC

The IWM is now officially open: Zoe Graham had a sneak preview recently and was impressed.

Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, officially declared the Imperial War Museum North open at a special ceremony on Wednesday July 24.

From the outside, the new £30 million pound Imperial War Museum North in Manchester has real presence. Visitors are dwarfed by a dramatic 55 metre high entrance, which includes an impressive 29 metre high viewing platform and provides spectacular, breathtaking views of the Manchester cityscape, accessible via a lift.

Shows Imperial War Museum North, designed by Daniel Libeskind.

Right: Imperial War Museum North from Salford Quays. Photo Len Grant © Len Grant

"It's not just any museum, not just any place - it's a beacon of interest before you even enter the museum," said Daniel Libeskind, Imperial War Museum North architect.

The museum is the first completed UK building designed by Libeskind, an internationally acclaimed architect, also responsible for the V&A's controversial 'Spiral' extension, not yet built.

the architect Daniel Libeskind. Photo Len Grant © Len Grant

Left: the architect Daniel Libeskind. Photo Len Grant © Len Grant

According to Libeskind the structure is an iconic symbol of what the museum represents. That is, the contemporary world shattered into fragments and reassembled as a fundamental emblem of conflict.

The new museum is the fifth branch of the Imperial War Museum and the first in the North of England. Inside, the space is split into two large sections - the main exhibition room and a special display gallery.

Shows a First World War British army biscuit from the Imperial War Museum North.

Right: an engraved First World War British army biscuit. Photo Phil Sayer © Phil Sayer

A 3-D timeline runs around the perimeter walls of the main room, charting events from 1900 to the present day. Visitors can explore the sequence of events through objects, photographs, film and documents evidence, enabling each individual to learn something new or see a piece of history in different way.

Within the central display, Silos, towering sectioned displays, focus on themes that unite and connect all wars. These Silos focus on each aspect of war from woman and war to impressions of war, Empire, Commonwealth and war right through to science technology and war, and probably most poignant of all, the legacy of war.

imagery from the Children and War exhibit. Photo Mark Follon © IWM/Michael Spencer Jones

Left: imagery of the Children and War exhibit. Photo Mark Follon © IWM/Michael Spencer Jones

'The Big Picture' audio visual shows are designed to be deliberately thought provoking, encouraging debate and reflection about such issues as 'Why war?', 'Weapons of War' and 'Children of War.'

These presentations are projected onto the walls of the space, cloaking visitors in darkness, ensuring that everywhere you look or each part of the museum you are in, you cannot avoid images of the past.

a Trabant car taken from the Why War? exhibit. Photo Mark Follon © IWM

Right: a Trabant car in the Why War? exhibit. Photo Mark Follon © IWM

The museum also contains some real life exhibits. It displays the artillery piece that fired the first shell from the British side in the First World War. It is home to the Harrier Jump Jet, the first vertical take off and landing craft.

In the special exhibitions gallery, the opening show, Land Marks - photographs of IWMN by Len Grant, explores the ideas behind the design of the building and highlights the construction process from the first hole to the last rivet.

Photo Len Grant © Len Grant

Left: the Women and War exhibit. Photo Len Grant © Len Grant

The Imperial War Museum North has moved away from the traditional image of a war museum. It has been said that the museum is not a place for memorials, but a place for discovery. Most significantly, it certainly makes you aware of your own mortality, and recognises that although war is sometimes futile, on occasions it is the only solution.

More on the venues and organisations we've mentioned:
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