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Imperial War Museum What Happened?

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I visited the IWM yesterday....

With the new refit they seem to have lost all of the military uniforms and most of the atmosphere.

Am I alone in feeling that if I wanted to look at films/reproduced photographs/graphic displays I could read books and watch films. Etc.

There used to be a lot to look at and it was quite menacing and atmospheric in places.

I suggest that they change the name to the global conflict learning centre.

I did go into the WW1 gallery and there were a few uniform displays, some were presented backwards, yes good to see kit at angles but I had to laugh, hardly the intention as I used to feel a bit intimidated by the WW1 section.

I am worried the Army Museum will go the same way.

Any advice where to visit?

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I went there the other day and talked to one of the staff. I metioned that a lot of money had been spent, he looked quite smug and agreed. I then asked how much it had cost to ruin the musuem and collection. He didn't look so smug after that. At least the reading room survives.

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I haven't seen it yet myself, but to get the funding they have to tick boxes on forms created by the educated historical professionals who know whats best.

 

They have a degree you know..

 

Just my opinion of course.

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Am I alone in feeling that if I wanted to look at films/reproduced photographs/graphic displays I could read books and watch films. Etc.

 

You're not alone. I've seen the IWM revamped three or four times over as many decades, and each time they've managed to spend a lot of money on spoiling it. Many years ago one of the staff told me that they were funded by the Dept of Education and Science and their brief was therefore to educate and inform. I suggested that this was a task for schools and the IWM's job was simply to present the exhibits and let the visitors make up their own minds, but he wasn't having any of that.

 

From what I've heard, the latest incarnation seems to be the usual politically-correct focus on in-yer-face audio-visual interactive claptrap devised by Marxists to indoctrinate schoolchildren, with all those nasty grubby exhibits tucked away slightly shamefacedly into a corner. But perhaps I am doing it a disservice as I haven't actually seen it myself, only heard reports. I have however seen their online section, whose exhibits appear to have been photographed and catalogued by slightly subnormal thirteen year olds.

 

One can only pray that this fate doesn't befall the NAM. Sadly, the same kind of ruination is being inflicted on museums all over the country, both military and general. Dover Museum, once hauntingly atmospheric and wonderfully cluttered, is long gone, relocated and turned into "The White Cliffs Experience", ffs. The once excellent, sprawling Reading Museum suffered a similar transformation some time ago, as did the Castle at Norwich. The only truly unspoilt museum I know of is the excellent Wisbech and Fenland Museum, which the do-gooders haven't got their hands on. Yet. It even has a (very) small military section.

 

Oh dear. End of rant. Sorry if I've gone political or off topic.

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A few months back was in Manchester and was surprised and excited to see there was an IWM there(never knew one existed in Manchester) and while there were some nice exhibits there I was quite annoyed to be rudely told by a burly ape of a security guard that I wasnt allowed to take photos????????

 

Also way too much intercative videos,shows going on for my liking but was still a mainly enjoyable experience but am sure could have been much better.

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My pet hate with any of the interactive/computer-driven stuff is that it usually packs up after a couple of weeks and no-one knows how to mend it. Cue blank screens and tatty apologetic notices ...

 

Andy

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A few months back was in Manchester and was surprised and excited to see there was an IWM there(never knew one existed in Manchester) and while there were some nice exhibits there I was quite annoyed to be rudely told by a burly ape of a security guard that I wasnt allowed to take photos????????

 

Also way too much intercative videos,shows going on for my liking but was still a mainly enjoyable experience but am sure could have been much better.

I would have taken the photographs and then see what would happen. Possibly a nice big row by the exhibits, sometimes standing your ground works....

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I would have taken the photographs and then see what would happen. Possibly a nice big row by the exhibits, sometimes standing your ground works....

 

 

He only seemed to be"guarding" the WW1 section,was ok everywhere else.

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Ah the days of childhood! Rare vistis to the Science Musuem. Lots of levers to pull and buttons to press with clanking chains and ropes and bits of machinery moving. Now 'THEY' wonder why kids aren't intrested in enginnering! :nut:

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He only seemed to be"guarding" the WW1 section,was ok everywhere else.

Why? The whole Great War lot is confusing badly signed and has nothing to make you think.

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Actually, I have seen many museums designed by Marxists - generally just a load of stuff with little in the way of explanation, with some older woman sitting on a stool in one corner making sure you do not attempt to deface or steal anything from the displays.

 

:D

 

trevor

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In this spirit of mournful reflection I remember as a seven year old (in the early fifty’s) on a school holiday in Dorset being let off the coach and encouraged to clamber over some old metal things in a large shed. With wooden steps and platforms around the stuff to help get on; sitting on top of some old German thing with a cross on it and a big gun a funny green colour called a Tiger and two Tortoise. One inside and one outside on which we ate our sandwiches then back inside for more fun and adventures amongst the bits of metal a Sherman a Mark IV and many others – fantastic I still have a booklet bought at the time – memories are what museums should be a spark to the imagination that could last a life time

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Tell me I might not understand, show me I might not remember, involve me I will learn!

Tony

Great for uninformed adults and ill educated kids. Lots of interactive screens and very few Historic objects.

I was describeing to a ferien how a rotary engine worked. ie crankshaft bolted to the airframe propeller bolted to cylinders, breath in like a 2 stroke via transfer ports & hollow crankshaft & out like a 4 stroke via valves. She brought to my attention not only did I have her attention but a whole bunch of adults & school kids. One teacher asked was I an offical guide? I explained I knew because my Granddad told me about his time in the RFC and it sparked my interest and I read a book about it & looked at a WW! Sopwith Pup inA musuem where I could see it up close & personel. Now they hang it 20 feet above our heads to show off the million of pounds worth of concrete that has been crammed into ths spaces.

Architecture great but not a musuem as we know it. But what would I know I'm only 69 and only been a soilder for most of my life. As far as teachers go I know nothing!! As for involvement I do talks to schools and they get to handle all the artifacts even Dac weapons shock horror!! Funnyly enough I get invited back!!

Rob REME

Artifficer

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Keep up the good work Rob.

Maybe one day someone will project a hologram version of your good self pointing to pictures of things and giving talks in a PC all inclusive way (they will convince you to do this against your better interest) aimed at people who are not really interested in the subject to grab their attention. You might get lottery funding too, on the condition that you get a famous architect to build a concrete and metal shed for you.

You will obviously have to spend your life savings on a PR and marketing sales team with no knowledge of your subject to make it seem cool.

All the Best.

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Intrestingly though. A couple of years ago the 10th Essex were doing a show at the RE Museum Chatham. I was tagging along do the jaw jaw bit with the visitors. One guy came in with his Grandson and daughter. He said to me, 'were only here for the boy really. Doubt the girl will be intrested but it passes half and hour'. A lot later I saw the girl, about 13 or 14 up at the war games table, she was still there about an hour later. I spoke to he granfather later he told me that once she had tried it , he couldn't get her away. She was totally absorbed in moving actual things about, being face to face with her opponents and having to roll dice and think about her moves, nothing set in a computer proggramme.

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The revamp of IWM lambeth is so bad it will win awards. I've suggested to the curator of my local military museum to take a visit to see what NOT to do to theirs.

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I wonder what the organizers were aiming for with the IWM? I would imagine that many of their exhibits are getting rather ancient and delicate now.

 

trevor

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The aim? Probaly to hire it out for Corparate Events and Weddings! Got to pay for it somehow. :nut:

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I went there the other day and talked to one of the staff. I metioned that a lot of money had been spent, he looked quite smug and agreed. I then asked how much it had cost to ruin the musuem and collection. He didn't look so smug after that. At least the reading room survives.

 

That made me laugh Tony!!!!

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He did'nt. His poor little lower lip was trembling. :D Anyway they do ask for 'Visitor Feedback'. Hostage to fortune with us lot really.

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Having spent £40million on the improvements they now plan £4million cuts that includes the library, some of the collection & perhaps 80 jobs. There is a petition against this.

 

https://www.change.org/p/rt-hon-george-osborne-mp-urgently-reverse-current-and-future-cuts-to-the-uk-imperial-war-museum-s-annual-operating-grant-in-aid-so-that-it-can-maintain-services-and-preserve-its-standing-as-an-international-centre-for-study-research-and-education

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Don't shoot the messenger here...

 

But here are a few things I have heard over the years.

 

Firstly… a long time back I was told (18 years ago) that the constitution of the IWM was changed to allow them to sell off any unwanted items… i.e. duplicates and things which did not benefit the collection. That is why (I am led to believe) that when you give them something, you sign a document which says it can "be used in any way the museum sees fit to benefit the place" - or some such wording.

 

Now call me cynical - but at the same time as this happened the directors (I believe) stopped getting bonuses directly based on income through the doors - because the entry fee was dropped at the door.

 

Therefore the directors could still get a bonus by improving the other services, i.e. coffee shop, seminars, souvenirs etc. which would generate new income. They then got their bonus. And rightly so.

 

However, someone I used to know - should we put it that way… told me that in her opinion the "selling of spare items" then went into overdrive. Lots and lots of items which were "no longer needed" were sold off and obviously this increased the income from "other sources" and generated bonuses. So you can see why over a period of time that if that was happening - then the museum might not be developing in quite the way we all would want it to.

 

Another story I heard - a little more directly, was from one of my suppliers whom I called to give some work. He told me he was too busy for a few months… (and I am simply repeating what he said to me) he said that he had been tasked with replacing the original WWI 1908 pattern webbing (and one assumes the leather work also) with reproduction items at the IWM which could be put on display.

 

I have seen and often bought his work and it is brilliant and indistinguishable from the originals… but at the end of the day an original set of 08 webbing probably nowadays costs £1,000 and his copies cost £200+.

 

So the net income generated for "funds" by replacing the originals with copies (if this happened) was £800 per set. If you use the same analogy for Victorian helmets, gallantry medals, planes, etc. etc. then the bonus system is working pretty well - perhaps?

 

What I personally would like to see is a clear and definitive list of all the items the museum holds put online. They obviously have such a list for insurance purposes and it is a publicly owned document one assumes - certainly it should be available under the freedom of information act. If they have nothing to hide and want to be open and seen by all to be above board… then this would be a way of scotching the many rumours going around about where things have gone over the years.

 

They may have nothing at all to hide and be working completely honourably - and I hope they are. But at a time when we should be preserving more and more - it appears that we can see less and less in our public museums… so it does make you wonder where all the IWM stuff has gone over the years. Simply masking the collection with interactivity does not work for me.

 

I completely agree about the "interactive Museums" - it has become an industry in-itself supplying these systems to places and one assumes because a new breed of "conservator" has emerged from college who wants to be hip and modern.

 

Take for example the Caen Memorial museum in Normandy … they charge something like 16 euros to go in and then lecture you on peace…. forgive me if I am wrong, but people go to museums to see original items, things that have a story to tell and unfortunately war is not pretty and should be told - warts and all.

 

I cannot imagine a change of management at Auschwitz and them making it into a "peace museum" just because that is the way things are now going.. or the town of Oradour-sur-Glane making a peace museum. They tell it like it is for a reason.

 

So why is there a national obsession by funding organisations to stop mentioning Nazi's - and stop talking about death and war?

 

That in my opinion is the whole purpose of their existence - to educate people so that they can learn from what happens during war and hopefully not repeat it. If to the humble visitor everything turns out rosey 50 years after a war then what does that teach people? Other than - "it will be alright in the future"….

 

If anyone can clarify any of the points I have raised above I would love to have heard wrongly… but my opinion is that bean counters and beauracrats are running many museums and getting a huge salary. Lets have more enthusiasts running our museums and they might then put the interests of the museums first.

 

As I say - its just my opinion….

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...

 

Firstly… a long time back I was told (18 years ago) that the constitution of the IWM was changed to allow them to sell off any unwanted items… i.e. duplicates and things which did not benefit the collection. That is why (I am led to believe) that when you give them something, you sign a document which says it can "be used in any way the museum sees fit to benefit the place" - or some such wording.

 

Now call me cynical - but at the same time as this happened the directors (I believe) stopped getting bonuses directly based on income through the doors - because the entry fee was dropped at the door...

 

 

Was the entry fee dropped 18 years ago? My memory is a little fuzzy but I expect it was dropped, along with most other national museums, when the VAT refund scheme was introduced. For the IWM this applied from 1 Dec 2001 - see SI 2001/2879: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2001/2879/contents/made

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