A Thought Provoking Afternoon

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by dkm1981 on October 29, 2009


I remember going to the Imperial War Museum in London when I was a child and having a great time, so when I discovered there was one here in the North, I decided to pay a visit.

The Imperial War Museum North is housed in an obscure, but interesting, looking building and is basically made up of two floors:

The ground floor is the entrance and includes the gift shop, a dining room (where you can eat your packed lunch, if you've brought one), a cloak room, learning studio and the elevator to the Air Shard (which is a 29 metre high viewing platform, from which you can see most of Manchester).

The second floor is where the exhibition rooms are. There are two; the Main Exhibition Space which contains the permanent display of war artefacts and the Special Exhibitions gallery which contains the temporary exhibitions. When I visited the temporary exhibition was a display of female war artists' work, which was well worth the visit alone.

The Main Exhibition Space is also where they present the award-winning Big Picture Show, which is a 360 degree audio-visual experience showing different aspects of the war in approximately 15 minute shows, every hour.

My Opinion

The museum is fantastic, in my opinion. It's really well laid out and easy to work your way around. There is an even balance of visual, emotional and informative display items that makes it suitable for the whole family.

The Museum is presented in a big open space, that is easy to wander round in a logical order, following the timeline that runs around the edge of the room covering 1914 to the present day in digestible periods - World War I, The inter-war period, World War II, After the war until 1990 and 1990 to the present day. This is particularly good because you generally think of the World Wars when you consider wars in general, but it gives a interesting and thought-provoking look at the wars of this generation, which are often over-looked (by me anyway).

There are some great 'large objects' which break up the educational bits nicely. The most impressive is the Harrier Jump-jet hanging in the entrance. Also on display are a Trabant estate car and a T34 Russian tank. You obviously can't climb on the objects, but you can get a good look at the insides of them and there are descriptions of them and quotes from people who've used them.

There are also a number of small rooms (called Silos) which each display a different aspect of war, such as Women and War (which has souvenirs that notable women from each war have collected) and Experience of War (which is laid out like a living room and contains games, newspapers and foods from the various wars).

The museum is very child-friendly, with plenty of opportunities for children to learn whilst having fun at the action stations. These include learning how to crack codes and dressing up in camouflage. Whilst we were there, there were many children wandering round with smiles on their faces as they explored the various exhibits and enjoyed the object handling sessions hosted by the museum staff.

By far and away the best bit of the museum though was the Big Picture display. Every hour, the main room goes dark and images and sounds of the war are displayed on the walls, giving you a very real experience of the war through the eyes of the people who experienced it first-hand. The presentation we watched was 'Children and War', which gave the accounts of children from all the countries that have been involved in wars throughout the last century. It was a very moving account and I found it very interesting to see how war affects the people involved.

Overall, I would definitely say that the museum is worth a visit and a donation. It is suitable for people of all ages and gives a thought-provoking and moving account of events that are happening around the world even now.

Other information

The museum is located on the riverside at The Quays in Salford and is easily accessible by road, car and train.

The museum itself is free to enter, although you do have to visit the entry desk to 'check in' where a member of staff politely enquires whether you'd 'like to help the museum to expand and improve by making a valuable donation of £3.95' (for which price you get an all-singing, all-dancing guide book!). We gave the guide book a miss, saying that we'd make our own donation. There are plenty of donation boxes around the museum and, to be honest, you don't need a guide book, as the museum is quite small and the exhibits well-labelled.

There is a great gift shop where you can buy from an extensive range of war literature, museum souvenirs and war-inspired items such as ration cook-books and foods.

The museum is open seven days a week from 10am until 6pm (March to September) and 10am until 5pm (November to February). Last admission is 30 minutes prior to closing.

Whilst it probably only takes a couple of hours to explore the museum, it's easy to make it part of a day out, as there is an outlet mall, theatre and plenty of restaurants close by, as well as Old Trafford (if you're that way inclined, which I'm definitely not!).
Imperial War Museum North
Salford Quays
Manchester, England, M17 1TZ
0161 836 4000


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