Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Imperial War Museum

A few weeks ago, our friend came to visit us in London as part of his two months post-bar trip around Europe. Reed had an intense itinerary for Europe, hitting up at least 30 cities in 14 countries over the span of 8 weeks. Equally, he had a relatively ambitious agenda for London -- two long walking tours and several museums, and of course catching up with his expat friends over dinner, drinks (thanks for the fantastic Belgium beers and French wines!), and long conversations well into the night.
Keenan and I felt like gluttons overindulging ourselves with homecooked Coq Au Vin; Mexican food at Wahaca; delicious Pakistani food at Tayaabs; and an All-American meal of burgers and milkshake at Byron’s in Covent Garden during Reed’s visit. It was great fun and thanks for making London part of your itinerary!
Before arriving to London via the very convenient EuroStar, Reed had spent the previous day visiting the beaches of Normandy on a D-Day Tour. As he had just finished reading Winston Churchill’s biography, he took himself to the Churchill War Rooms, which is part of the Imperial War Museum, and highly recommends the museum for anyone who is a World War II history buff. If you have been reading this blog for a while, you know very well that my better half is a history buff, particularly with 20th century history and politics.
 
Upon Reed's recommendation, we finally made it to the Imperial War Museum in Kennington last Sunday. I can't believe after living in London for nearly two year, it took us this long to visit one of London's most interesting museums.  We spent nearly five hours browsing through the various exhibitions documenting war and war-time life during World War I, the inter-war period, World War II, as well as the present-day conflicts in Africa and the Middle East. Keenan was especially excited to visit this museum and made sure we covered every square inch of the building.
 
It is a great museum for both kids and adults, as the ground floors display wartime weapons such as rockets, tanks, submarines, and airplanes. There are also several powerful (but heavy) exhibitions, and documentaries screenings throughout the day. I highly recommend The Holocaust Exhibit which uses historical documentations including newspaper, interviews, letters, and photographs to tell the story of the Holocaust; and Secret War Gallery showcasing the development and evolution of the MI5 and MI6, the equivalent to the FBI and CIA, respectively. Allow at least an hour for each exhibition.
To put the two wars into historical and chronological context, the lower floor has a great exhibition clustered by geographical regions and historical periods to explain the series of events during both wars. The Trench Experience and Blitz Experience were also interesting depicting life in the trenches and the underground shelters during WWI and WWII, respectively. For background on the Blitz, read Keenan's post from September commemorating the 70th anniversary of The Blitz on London.
The Imperial War Museum is a great way to spend a leisurely Sunday afternoon. We highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in history. I suspect that this won't be our first or last visit to this fantastic museum located just a few stops from Clapham Common on the Northern Line.

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