Imperial War Museums (IWM) has confirmed that its £30.7m second world war and Holocaust Galleries will open at its south London site on 20 October.
The galleries follow on from the museum’s 2014 redevelopment, which included its first world war galleries and a new atrium designed by Foster + Partners for large object displays.
The two new adjoining galleries will span two floors at IWM London when they open, and aim to bring together “unseen objects, untold stories and unheard voices to help visitors understand the most devastating conflict in human history and the genocide that became known as the Holocaust”.
The displays will include a section of a barrack that is likely the last remaining part of Velten, a sub-camp of Ravensbrück and Sachsenhausen. This will be the first time that a section of a concentration camp barrack goes on public display in the UK. As well as highlighting the appalling conditions of concentration camps and the intricate relationship between the sub-camp network and the development of the Holocaust, the barracks will support the telling of stories that highlight the specific experience of women imprisoned in female-only environments during the Holocaust.
The second world war galleries will display 1,500 collection items and personal stories from more than 80 countries, highlighting the different experiences of those affected. New acquisitions from China, the US, Japan and from across Britain’s former empire will highlight the global narrative of the conflict, while the British experience will be explored in part through a deconstructed 1940s house that “brings to life the devastating impact of the Blitz on ordinary lives”.
IWM London is running a public campaign to fundraise the final £250,000 needed to support remaining projects such as the barrack’s conservation . At the time of writing £4,368 had been raised.
“It has never been more important to learn about the second world war and the Holocaust and to understand this defining period of the 20th century, which dramatically shaped the world we live in today,” said Diane Lees, director-general of IWM.
“Though this conflict will soon pass out of living memory, leaving us without the first-hand testimony of its veterans, eyewitnesses and survivors, IWM will ensure that the experiences of those generations are never forgotten through our incredible new galleries, which have been almost seven years in the making. This has been one of IWM’s most ambitious projects to date, and we are very much looking forward to sharing the fascinating stories that these galleries will tell when we open their doors in October.”
IWM is coordinating a dedicated Holocaust learning programme and regional partnerships with cultural heritage partners across the UK, designed to share interesting local histories related to its remit and collections. New digitally enabled learning and event suites will also open at IWM London alongside the galleries in October.