The London List: Imperial War MuseumPosted by in london life
I was thinking the other day about growing up in Auckland. A few times a year during school holidays or a rainy day at home we’d say “Let’s go to the museum!” – seems funny now after living in London, because if you said the same thing here someone would surely respond with “Yeah! But, which one?”
I love museums and have done ever since I was a kid visiting the one & only Auckland Museum. I absolutely love how many truly world class museums there are to visit in London…and that for the most part they’re free too.
Since I’m a bit of a history buff (well I’d like to think so), one that’s always been on my list to vist is the Imperial War Museum. To give me a sense of urgency, I found out it was closing for 6 months on the 1st of January for a huge redevelopment project, so I got in quickly at the very end of December…
My plan was to start at the Holocaust Exhibition area first with the intention of working my way back down the other floors and installations, guaranteeing that I wouldn’t miss the parts that I was most interested in seeing first.
It’s quite difficult to find the right words to praise an exhibition dedicated to telling the story of an atrocity like this – I can hardly say “it was a great exhibition”, so bear with me while I try. It’s harrowing. It is so thorough and detailed. If you’re willing to absorb it all, there is a lot there – video clips of footage and survivor accounts, in depth detail the whole way through the exhibition documenting that period in time, from the societal context leading up to these events, what life was like for people trying to survive each day through to the liberation of the camps. So many photos and stories from families. The love letters are heart-breaking.
I wanted to take it all in, read every word, watch every video and spend my time letting it all sink in. I spent so much time in fact that I heard the “museum closes in 15 minutes” announcement as I was still making my way around the The Holocaust Exhibition! Unfortunately, I had to really rush through the last section so I could quickly make it to the Cecil Beaton: Theatre of War photography exhibition, since I’d already bought a ticket for it when I entered the museum. I really couldn’t do this section justice, but since there was no one else in there by that stage I could still get through quite quickly and take the time to stop and stare at the images which grabbed me.
So, I didn’t see ALL of the Imperial War Museum and in fact I saw quite a small proportion of what’s there – but I did get to spend a lot of time at the main exhibition I went there for and I’m happy with that. I saw a lot of people casually zooming through it, barely stopping to read anything. So, as with lots of things in life, it was about quality not quantity for this London List entry.
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The London List is a year-long challenge I’ve set myself to do and see 12 things in London that I haven’t gotten around to doing in my past 4 years living here. For me, it’s about having more adventures in the city I live in between the overseas ones.
I’d encourage anyone who wants to see more of London (or wherever they live) to make their own list of 12 things to do – big or small – in the next 12 months.
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