IWM takes war online

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07 April 2020
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Imperial War Museums brings history to families across the globe through new digital programming.

From spies to submarines and life on the Home Front, Imperial War Museums (IWM) will bring history into the homes of families across the world as part of its brand-new digital programme, sharing unique and personal stories from its collections. 

In the coming weeks, families will be introduced to the real life experiences of individuals such as John Allpress whose father, during World War II, built an Anderson shelter that his family grew vegetables on top of in their garden, and Kitty Baxter who spent nights in a communal bomb shelter in Camberwell with her family. Their stories will feature in IWM’s first instalment of Adventures in History, a weekly series of new videos exploring different themes of war and conflict. Week one will see IWM’s Learning Producer Ngaire Bushell broadcast from World War II houseboat to share eyewitness accounts of real people who experienced life in air raid shelters during the Blitz. 

To complement these videos, IWM will also be setting a weekly series of fun challenges, games and activities inspired by our stories and collections. Family Mission will encourage viewers to get hands-on and put learning to the test. Week one’s mission takes inspiration from the Hill family who were separated during World War II and whose 25-word messages delivered by the Red Cross, now in IWM’s collection, were their only form of communication. Drawing on this story, families will be invited to write to us in 25 words and share their experiences of being at home.

Susie Thornberry, Assistant Director of Public Engagement and Learning at IWM, said, “While our doors are temporarily closed, we want to bring IWM’s stories, collections and educational resources to homes everywhere. We believe we are a museum of extraordinary times and, at a time when children are off school and life as we know it is disrupted and uncertain, we hope our new digital programme will give families, teachers and carers a unique way to engage with history.”

From Wednesday 8 April, IWM experts and family favourite CBBC presenter Ben Shires, will introduce viewers at home to a different weekly theme inspired by the national curriculum, giving ingenious, surprising and moving perspectives on history that children would not normally hear in the classroom. Adventures in History will see a new video uploaded on IWM’s YouTube channel and website every Wednesday at 2pm. Families will have the opportunity to get their questions answered by an IWM expert from 2pm – 3pm, by leaving questions in the comments section, or on Facebook and Twitter. On Fridays, learning will be put to the test in Family Mission. Every Friday at 11am, a mission briefing will be shared on IWM’s Facebook and Twitter channels, encouraging viewers to get involved through an activity related to that week’s theme.

In addition to Adventures in History and Family Mission, IWM is offering a variety of new and existing digital content to appeal to audiences of all ages: Explore museum spaces and historic sites with virtual tours.

A brand-new virtual tour of IWM Duxford’s American Air Museum will shortly be available, giving visitors a unique opportunity to explore the story of Anglo-American collaboration over the course of 20th and 21st century conflict. In this tour, developed with the support of Foster and Partners who designed and built the award-winning American Air Museum building in 1997, visitors can see the largest collection of American military aircraft outside of the United States from the comfort of their own homes, including the cutting-edge SR-71 Blackbird spy plane, the world’s fastest and highest flying aircraft; the P-51 Mustang, recently conserved to represent Etta Jean II and the personal aircraft of fighter pilot Colonel Huie Lamb who flew with Duxford’s 78th Fighter Group during World War II; and the imposing B-52 Stratofortress, a veteran of the Cold War and Vietnam. 

A virtual tour of Churchill War Rooms, the secret underground headquarters where Winston Churchill and his team directed the course of World War II, is also being made available. Visitors can enjoy unique behind-the-glass access to the Cabinet Room where Churchill and his key ministers would meet to make important decisions about the course of the war, and explore the labyrinth of rooms and corridors that stretched below Westminster to keep the war cabinet safe from German bombing. 

IWM will be sharing enhanced content across its social media platforms – Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – with a series of new hashtag initiatives. In #CollectionSpotlight, IWM experts have been asked to pick and share a few words about unique, little-known and unusual objects from IWM’s collections. In #SpeedCurating, IWM curators have been challenged to explain why they love their favourite collection item in a 60-second video. On YouTube, audiences can go behind-the-scenes and learn more about IWM’s exhibitions, anniversaries and collections with hundreds of videos that tell stories of those who have lived, fought and died in conflict, from 1914 to the present day.

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Visitors to IWM’s website will also be able to browse collections online where more than 800,000 items including artworks, documents, objects, photography, film and oral histories are available alongside stories written by IWM’s subject-leading experts. 


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