London | War by the eyes of people | IWM

Place: London, Country: United Kingdom
Owner: The Imperial War Museum
Exhibition design: Casson Mann, London
Photos and texts courtesy of Casson Mann
Additional images courtesy of Imperial War Museum


The IWM London, photo by Greg Smith, courtesy of Imperial War Museum

IWM London new galleries | War by the eyes of people

by Riccardo Bianchini, Inexhibit

The Imperial War Museum, founded in 1917, is today an articulate institution managing five different centers in the United Kingdom and devoted to spreading the knowledge of what war is and what they mean to the people that experienced it. The IWM London is currently undergoing a major redevelopment envisaging the creation of a new scenographic atrium, two new galleries dedicated to World War One and Two, and new visitor facilities. The architectural design has been developed by Foster + Partners while the exhibition design has been carried out by the award-winning practice Casson Mann.
After a 6 months closure, the museum re-opened on 19 July 2014, for the centenary of the First World War, presenting the new Atrium and the IWW gallery to the public.
Thanks to Casson Mann we can feature here the new exhibition galleries and their design.

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IWW gallery view; courtesy of Casson Mann

The World War One Gallery, text by Casson Mann

The biggest challenge in re-imagining the First World War galleries was how to break from the inevitable expectations associated with the timeline of battles, explains Creative Director Roger Mann. It was important for the whole team to make it a unique experience, distinct from the many other exhibitions, galleries, books, and films on the subject.
Delivering a contemporary exhibition experience about such a brutal and complex conflict without simplification or sentimentality demands a finely tuned concept and a sense of performance. Casson Mann’s richly layered scenographic structure provides a strong narrative framework for understanding the dynamics of the First World War and for the first time blends the display of large and small physical objects with digital media interactives, projections, suggestive soundscapes and authentic human voices telling their stories.


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Top to bottom: Rendering of the exhibition plan; two sketches of the layout; a trench reconstruction, details, and overview of the WWI gallery; all images courtesy of Casson Mann

This emphasis on authentic human stories forms a key part of the narrative as ‘contemporaneous voices’ ground the visitor in the present tense as events unfold – quotes, anecdotes, and excerpts drawn from the IWM’s vast archive of personal letters, diaries, documents, and orders are woven together with objects, artifacts, and photographs to tell the story through personal experience and reflection.
Our visitors will see the war through the eyes of the people who experienced it and through the objects they gave to the Museum so that their stories might be told. They will help us to show the First World War as a far more complex event – often startlingly strange to modern eyes – than the popular image of it would suggest, says Mann.

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Top to bottom: a rendering and two photos of the WWI gallery, courtesy of Casson Mann

Atrium installation, WWII and post-1945 Galleries, text by Casson Mann

In addition to creating the new IWW exhibition experience on the Ground Floor Casson Mann’s team has worked closely with the IWM’s curators to create temporary displays representing key WWII and post-1945 conflicts and events on the upper Atrium levels.

The exhibition design firm, whose long-standing relationship with IWM includes the creation of the acclaimed Churchill Museum and Lord Ashcroft Gallery, has also choreographed the permanent installation of nine iconic objects – a Harrier, Spitfire and V2 rocket dramatically suspended above, as well as a T34 tank and a damaged Reuters Land Rover – in the new Atrium itself.
“This refurbishment has made it possible, for the first time, to display a number of the Museum’s large objects, some new to the London venue,”, says Roger Mann, continuing “and that has offered new opportunities for exciting and dramatic exhibition moments”.
The dynamic arrangement of the suspended objects in the Atrium is a case in point; Casson Mann’s choreography adds a sense of dramatic tension, while also reflecting the chronology of conflicts, as each object relates to a specific story narrative on one of the new terrace levels.

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Top to bottom: two views of the new Atrium installation; photo by Richard Ash, courtesy of Imperial War Museum. Two renderings of the WW2 Gallery, courtesy of Casson Mann.

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