|Imperial War Museum North|
Paul Adamson shows us the Imperial War Museum North in Manchester....
On a rainy day in February the family and I decided to take a day trip out to the Imperial War Museum – North, situated on the banks of the Manchester ship canal it is only about 20 minutes drive from where I live yet it had taken 9 years to get round to visiting....typical modellers timeline.
The Museum itself is a rather imposing building that hangs on to the banks of the canal, it was designed as 3 ‘shards’ by architect Daniel Libeskind and occupies an industrial area that was heavily bombed during the war.
The museum, like all public museums in the UK is free to enter but of course they get you by charging for parking, whilst this is ample and not ridiculously expensive there is no on street parking nearby so unless you get the metro you are stuck. On gate guard duty is a T55 that was captured during operation Desert Storm; she’s still in good condition considering her outdoor location.
The main entrance leads into the cavernous vertical structure and in fact contains a lift that takes you up to a gantry, we didn’t take the trip so I am unsure as to what there is to see up there (this is also a chargeable trip). Incidentally striking a pose on entrance is purely optional.
Whilst the taking of photographs is not prohibited there is one area of the museum that hosts events (this was war at sea) on a regular basis and there is no photography allowed in this area. As a result on entrance you are required to have this information imparted to you by one of the staff before being issued a sticker proclaiming your agreement to this clause before being directed through the shop to the main museum.
One nice touch is that there are plenty of lockers available for you to put coats and all those belongings you don’t want to carry with you, as it was raining and we were all wrapped up this came in very handy in the warm and dry indoors. The museum itself is all housed on the first floor of the building and there are lifts available for those with prams or wheelchairs, on the way through many poignant reminders of what you have come to see are on display.
The entrance is dominated by a large sculpture entitled Crusader by contemporary artist Gerry Juda...
This is flanked by a less contemporary sculpture entitled Harrier AV8b by MacDonnell Douglas...
The main hall is a cavernous affair and there are regular presentations that provide recordings from the people involved whilst huge images are cast upon the bare white walls. This really is like being inside a huge 360 degree cinema but the effect really works, the voices and the sound effects coupled with the images draw the audience in and almost demands your unfaltering attention. At this point one is struck by the different approach this museum seeks to take; there is a definite feeling of condemnation against conflict rather than its glorification. I’m not suggesting that the museum goes all ‘tree huggy’ but the way the presentations are done is with a sense of poignancy about the events of war, certainly the presentation about how the war affected the Children certainly moved me close to tears (I blame being a dad, I was hormonal).
The museum, being a satellite of the IWM in London is considerably smaller and can be got round in about an hour which in truth was a little disappointing but what is there is still extremely interesting. The walls of the museum are festooned with relics and items from all major conflicts over the last 100 years and some are brought out for a more hands on look, in this case a teddy bear we had to take out as part of a school project for my eldest son.
Away from the walls the floor space is occupied with various items from field guns to fire engines these are well spaced so there is no feeling of being closed in despite the lack of any natural outside light.
The centrepiece (albeit not in the centre) of the display is a T34/85, in pristine condition she would be useful for walk around shots though I suspect she is more likely to be a post war model.
Perhaps the most poignant item is the pyjamas worn by an unnamed victim of the holocaust...
The inclusion of such items seeks to underline the horrors of war and this item more than all others goes a long way to reminding us of the sacrifices made over the years by civilians as well as combatants.
On a lighter note one display contained a vintage Tamiya 1/35th LRDG Chevy but I couldn’t get through the glass without being seen.
The exhibitions hall contained a display about the war at sea from WWI to the present day, sadly photography was not allowed in this area. Whilst the display was entertaining and indeed interactive it again suffered from being on the small side.
All in all the IWM north is a good day out but if I am honest I would not go out of my way to visit if I lived more than 50 miles away. If the museum seeks to draw repeat visitors it could really do with being a bit bigger, you can get round the whole thing in an hour, if you took the time to spend time with each exhibit you could extend this but you certainly won’t be there all day.