Since the dramatic transformation of IWM London which was revealed in July 2014 to mark the start of the centenary of the First World War, IWM London has welcomed 1 million visitors through its doors – breaking all its previous visitor records.
Not since 1920, shortly after the museum opened its doors to the public for the very first time, have there ever been so many visitors to the museum. Visits have averaged 166,666 a month for the last 6 months and 5025 a day. Half of those who have visited the museum have done so for the first time, with almost 70% visiting the First World War Galleries.
Diane Lees, Director-General of IWM says, “IWM London is a world class museum and it’s been incredible to welcome so many visitors from around the world through our doors. 2014 was a momentous year. As the world came together to commemorate those who lived, served and died during the First World War, we launched new permanent First World War Galleries and the largest exhibition of First World War Art in 100 years, allowing our visitors to discover the story of the conflict, its causes and impact on the world.”
“We hope that 2015 will see this increase in visitors to IWM London gather yet more momentum as we continue to commemorate the First World War as well as the end of the Second World War with new exhibitions such as Fashion on a Ration, and stories from contemporary conflict such as our War Story display and our contemporary arts programme.”
The Imperial War Museum was founded almost 100 years ago in 1917 while the First World War was still being fought. It was recognised that a museum must be established to commemorate the life changing impact of the war for those in Britain and across the former Empire. Since then IWM has continued to collect objects that tell the stories of the causes, course and consequences of war – from personal diaries, letters and mementos through to art works, film, photos and large weapons.
IWM first shared its collections with the public in June 1920, when the museum was opened at Crystal Palace by King George V. Having moved to the former Imperial Institute in South Kensington a few years later, by 1930 there was insufficient space for the growing collections and it was proposed that the museum should be permanently housed in the surviving central portion of the former Bethlem Royal Hospital in Southwark. In 1936 the Duke of York (the future King George IV) reopened the museum in its current location. Today IWM (Imperial War Museums) is made up of five branches; IWM London as the flagship branch along with Churchill War Rooms and HMS Belfast in London, as well as IWM Duxford and IWM North in Manchester.
This spring visitors to IWM London will have the last chance to see the critically acclaimed major art exhibition – Truth and Memory – the largest exhibition of British First World War art for almost 100 years -before it closes on 8 March. Booking has now opened for our new major exhibition Fashion on the Ration: 1940s Street Style which opens on 5 March where visitors can explore how fashion survived and even flourished under the strict rules of rationing during the Second World War in new and unexpected ways.