In 1917 the British Government decided that a National War Museum should be set up to collect and display material relating to the Great War, which was then still being fought. The interest taken by the Dominion governments led to the museum being given the title of Imperial War Museum. The Museum was opened by King George V in 1920. At the outset of the Second World War the Museum’s terms of reference were enlarged to cover both world wars and they were again extended in 1953 to include all military operations in which Britain or the Commonwealth have been involved since August 1914.
The Imperial War Museum has an unparalleled collection covering all aspects of twentieth and twenty-first century conflict involving Britain and the Commonwealth.
- 19,000 paintings, drawings and sculptures constituting the second largest collection of 20th century British art in the world
- 15,000 posters
- 120 million feet of cine film
- 10,000 hours of videotape
- 56,000 hours of historical sound recordings
- more than 10 million photographs, negatives and transparencies
- over 15,000 collections of unpublished diaries, letters, memoirs and other papers
- 270,000 library items, including books, maps and ephemera
- plus thousands of three dimensional objects including, uniforms, medals, firearms, as well as hundreds of larger objects including aircraft and vehicles
Imperial War Museum London is one of five Imperial War Museum branches that you can visit:
IWM London is on the south bank of the Thames near to the Elephant and Castle tube and rail stations.