Modern museum tells the stories of war


Member Rating 5 out of 5 by catsholiday on December 8, 2011

Imperial War Museum, Salford Quays

During our weekend away with friends in Altringham we spent the day in Salford Quays visiting this museum and the Lowry centre.

We arrived at the Quays by train which cost us £10 for four adults from Altringham for a day rover ticket which we thought was brilliant value. If you come by car then there are plenty of parking spaces but I suspect it probably isn’t cheap.

Like the London Imperial War Museum this one is free to enter. From the outside it looks very modern and sleek. It is built to represent different shards of the world breaking apart as the result of conflict and war. Inside the feeling is one of space and the displays are just so well set out and displayed in such a wide variety of ways.

The very first exhibit we came across was a Harrier Jump Jet and I was quite surprised at how small they are. It is a full sized aircraft and standing beside or under it I felt quite small but I still thought they might actually be bigger than this one was.

The next display was just a window with an object to represent every conflict the UK had been involved in during the 20th century. It was interesting how such simple things like a letter or some ones’ hat could be so poignant.

Exhibits varied from the large ones such as a blown up car from Iraq or the large piece of metal from the Twin Towers through to the tubes with smells from inside an air raid shelter that you could lift and sniff in order to guess what it might be.

I was specially moved by the recordings of real people in some of the areas. One woman described how as a young girl in Berlin one day she had gone out and looked up into a tree to see what looked like bit of rubbish that turned out to be bits of a British pilot blown out of his plane. She never felt the same about war since.

The section on women in the war was also very inspiring. How women who had previously been housewives were able to turn their hand to farm work, munitions factory work and even complex aircraft manufacture. Then when the men returned they had to return to being housewives once again.

At specific time in the main exhibition area all the lights are dimmed and there is a film show with lights and sound telling about life in the cities in WWII. There was a mixture of archive film and interviews with people who had lived through the war; the whole thing was very well done, inspiring and moving too. This was followed by a performance by a lady acting the role of a lady who worked in a munitions factory who had sent her children away to be evacuated. She was excellent, very convincing and she even sang an old wartime song.

I was impressed with the many and varied exhibits. One was like a huge filing cabinet and some of the ‘drawers’ opened. It was a drawer that represented a person; just a normal everyday person who had lived through the wartime. There were a few of their personal passions which helped to tell a bit about them and their role or life in that time. Some of the people had died and some survived but it was all quite emotional seeing these very personal passions telling their stories.

THE RESTAURANT
We decided that we needed a coffee so made our way out towards the coffee shop. This is also a pretty large area with great views over the canal towards the Lowry building. The place was clean and very modern with large tables and plenty of chairs. You could have had a selection of hot meals from fish pie to lasagne through to shepherd’s pie and similar dishes. Also on offer were a number of different cakes, chocolate and biscuits as well as coffee, tea and hot chocolate and cold drinks too.

THE TOILETS
These were downstairs and there were quite a number so we had no queue even in the ladies. They were clean and there were also disables ones just nearby too. On this same level was the inevitable shop.

THE SHOP
This did have items that were typical of every gift shop, pencil, rubbers, and magnets etc. There were lots of war memorabilia in the form of replica ration books, gas masks, model aircraft and many, many books about the war, recipe books using recipes from the time and a lot of really interesting items to bring the war time to this generation.

WOULD I RECOMMEND?
Yes indeed. It is many years since I have been to the Imperial War museum in London so i won’t try and compare them but I was very impressed with the presentation of the exhibits and how very family friendly they had made the place. There were many hands on exhibits and the way the other items were presented really made them feel real. One exhibit had a stuffed toy dog made from an army blanket. It was made by a soldier for his superior officer’s daughter so that he could have some time off. I bet he never thought it would be see all these years later in a museum.

The museum is huge and in reality you could spend an entire day exploring the different exhibits but we spent about three hours in there and saw but a small part of it. There was a special exhibition on war correspondents and some of our friends stayed and explored that rather than going over to the Lowry Building. They said it was one of the best exhibitions they have seen and it was a very moving experience.r

This would be a perfect place to take a class of children learning about any war time during the 20th century. I would say that if your child is interested or is learning about any of these periods in history a visit to this museum will certainly make it more real to them through the many different exhibits
Imperial War Museum North
Salford Quays
Manchester, England, M17 1TZ
0161 836 4000

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