IWM London Review
Despite its name, the cultural venue formerly known as the Imperial War Museum (one of five IWM branches around the country) does not glorify either Empire or bloodshed but emphasizes understanding through conveying the impact of 20th and 21st Century warfare on citizens and soldiers alike. After a major renovation, a dramatic new six-story atrium at the main entrance encloses an impressive amount of hardware—including a Battle of Britain Spitfire, a German V2 rocket, tanks, guns, and submarines—along with accompanying interactive material and a new café. The "Trench Experiences" in the new World War I Galleries uses sights, sounds, and smells to re-create the grimness of life in No Man's Land, while an equally effective "Blitz Experience" in the revamped World War II galleries provides a 10-minute glimpse of an air raid, putting you on a "street" filled with acrid smoke as sirens wail and searchlights glare. Also in the World War II galleries is an extensive and haunting Holocaust Exhibition, while "Conflict Since 1945" documents the fact that there has been fighting somewhere in the world almost continuously since the end of World War II. Other galleries exhibit war art (by Henry Moore, John Singer Sargent, Stanley Spencer, and William Orpen, to name a few), as well as poetry, photography, and documentary film footage relating to conflicts from World War I to the present day. James Bond fans won't want to miss the intriguing Secret War Gallery, which charts the work of secret agents.