After living in Manchester for almost six years, last weekend I finally got around to visiting one of the city’s most established and impressive tourist attractions – the Imperial War Museum North. Located near Salford Quays, opposite the newly developed MediaCityUk development, the most immediately striking feature of the museum is its stunning architecture.
Designed by award winning architect Daniel Libeskind, the three main shards of the building are imagined to be the remnants of an imagined globe shattered by conflict, represent the elements of air, earth and water. Each shard serves a different functional purpose, with earth housing the main exhibition spaces, air leading up to the viewing area and observatory platform and finally water holding the main cafe.
The museum is easily accessible by tram from Manchester city centre and is free to enter, although it’s run as a charity so we made sure to buy a museum guide and left a donation to help maintain the exhibits.
Once inside, the main space that houses the permanent exhibitions is large and excellently laid out, with a chronological display and timeline feature running around the gallery’s 200 metre perimeter to guide visitors through a complete history of conflict from the First World War to present day. As well as larger artefacts such as fighter jets, sea mines and the like, the exhibition is brought to life by the many effects, including diaries, photographs, letters and records, that came together to reveal a very personal experience of war. There’s something about knowing who a particular uniform belonged to or learning about events through the eyes of the very people that experienced them first hand that gives the IWMN a really personal touch and through reading their individual stories I felt a real connection to the past.
There are also hourly audiovisual shows, projected onto the main exhibition space, which bring together recollections of war shown with video and photographic material from a variety of conflict from around the globe spanning the past century.That we saw three of these shows gives some indication of how long we were in there for!
At the moment, there’s also a special ‘Saving Lives’ exhibition on that is definitely worth a visit. Examining all aspects of medical care on the front line, from the trenches of the First World War to present-day Afghanistan, the exhibition by its own description ‘looks at the physical and emotional impact on individuals in fighting wars and the wider consequences for society’. As part of this, it explores the development of modern medicine through a variety of media including personal interviews with medics, soldiers and volunteers.
I’m definitely glad we went and would recommend anyone in Manchester, whether it’s just for flying visit or if, like me, you actually live in Manchester and have never been, to give it a go!
More information on the IWMN, it’s exhibits and how to find it can be found here.