The Imperial War Museum

The Imperial War Museum is actually an organisation comprised of five locations around England – and three of them can be found in London (HMS Belfast / Churchill War Rooms). However, when in London referring to the ‘Imperial War Museum’ specifically means the war museum in the southern part of town. One of the most powerful and impressive museums in London, the Imperial War Museum is a world-class visitor attraction and, best of all, is totally free!

For more information on London during war, make sure to check out our fascinating World War II Walking Tour.

The Imperial War Museum as we know it today was founded in 1917. The initial idea was to collect artifacts and materials to illustrate Britain’s war efforts through the years. At the official opening of The Imperial War Museum a speech was given by Sir Alfred Mond, an MP who began planning of the museum, where he said: “…it was hoped to make the museum so complete that every one who took part in the war, however obscurely, would find therein an example or illustration of the sacrifice he or she made.”

After World War II, the museum was expanded to incorporate recent historical wartime events. The museum was enlarged and moved to the site where it sits now, in order to house the rapidly expanded collection of artefacts. The building and exhibitions that exist today were redeveloped in 2012 and the restored museum was officially opened by Prince William in July of 2014.

Today the museum holds a significant archive to collect and preserve the private papers of individuals who have experienced warfare. Papers from soldiers to families, official documentation issued by war-time governments, propaganda materials and correspondence from heads of state are all carefully preserved and archived here. It is estimated that the museum is holding a collection of 24,800 papers.

Although the archives are not entirely on display to the public, there is a plethora of things for visitors to see. Art work, film clips, rotating exhibitions, photographs and a publicly accessible library are all contained within the museum. Rare artifacts, recordings of sounds, weaponry and materials salvaged from concentration camps sit along-side sculptures created by previous prisoners of war, recorded images playing on loop and even vehicles and aircraft.

Visitor Information
Days: 7 Days a Week
Opening Hours: 10:00am – 6:00pm
Cost: FREE
Location: Lambeth Road, London SE1 6HZ
Nearest Underground Stations: Lambeth North, Waterloo and Elephant & Castle Stations
Nearest Rail Station: Waterloo Station
Bus Routes: 159, 344, 360