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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

IWM North, Salford- anyone been?


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You'll find opinions divided. Most folk think it's awful. I'm happy to be one of the small minority who thinks it's excellent. And I'm really pleased I have it on my doorstep.

Folk who like traditional military museums, with glasscases stuffed full of revolvers and medals, will be disappointed. IWM (North) attempts to tell a very different story about conflict with which I empathise and, also, think they've done a brilliant job in telling their story. I also really like the building and the way the space is used. Yep, I'm a big fan.

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Me too. I like the IWMN. I like it a lot. I am very proud that a building of such dramatic and interesting architecture has been created in the North West – in fact, not one, but two, including the Lowry (theatre). I think Liebekind’s symbolism (the broken world) is powerful and I would suggest that a short walk across the Ship Canal (from the IWM site) to the Lowry is definitely worthwhile, as it gives an excellent view of the structure as well as enabling you to visit the Lowry itself, which is also innovative.

I think I can understand why people with a high state of knowledge about twentieth century warfare might find the son et lumière shallow. (It isn’t compulsory, however and they give you plenty of advance warning.) I find it effective and affecting, particularly in view of the fact that many people who visit the IWMN will never have paused to give war and its consequences a second thought: it ought to make such people think, and it does.

I took my mother, who as a young civilian drove ambulances in WW2. She was not into history at all, but IWMN triggered lots of memories for her: sounds of planes, artefacts; she remembered so many people she had forgotten. What really came out was that IWMN had been successful at communicating the profound impact of living in a time of war as an ordinary citizen because it was so much like she remembered - what it felt like, how it changed you, rather than a stock set of tales.

I am happy with fewer exhibits. I wouldn’t enjoy a museum with innumerable ration books or medals on dusty display – how many does a visitor need to see? . But it stunned me to walk in to the huge display area, with its darkened walls, and suddenly be confronted with a real Harrier. I’ve seen these close up at Duxford and Cosford, but enclosed in a building, unexpectedly: wow, impact. It brought their power into shocking suddenness. I’ve never seen a Trabby in real life and I was totally stunned that people could have saved up and waited fifteen years or so for such a basic, scruffy, tinpot car. And being able to touch the engines on display just awed me. It awed me to tears, to think of the young men who designed and made them – and the purpose for which their skills were used. I suppose it depends what appeals.

Go with an open mind and let the building and its concept work on you.


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  • 2 weeks later...

I'm still on the fence regarding IWM (North). Whilst I ageee with what John and Gwyn say, I can't help thinking that they have missed a trick. Without stuffing it to the brim, they could have got a bit more in.

Do let us know what you think.


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Two nil in favour so far. Thanks to you both for helpful comments.



No helpful comments, just go along and enjoy it (but don't forget what I said about the M62!!)

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It is certainly worth a visit, if only for being so very different.

If you have been to the IWM in south London...well....it is nothing like that!

I don't think there is a 90 degree angle in the place, even in the toilets. The fact that the floor is not flat is off-putting to start with, but then you sort of get used to it, and it makes you concentrate on the exhibits. The son et lumiere is also different, for you are encouraged to wander around during the display to see film on strangely-shaped walls. For those expecting and wanting glass displays, there are the stacks in which there is quite a lot to see too.

Go with an open mind, for it is...well...different!


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It's five or six years since I last went and I took two 10/11 years olds with me (and James tagged along too, of course!). We did enjoy it. It was nice to be able to intereact with some of the exhibits too. It was also special to me as my granddad and great granddad worked at the canal there. ONe digging it out and one as a slinger on the ships.

We are going to the Lowry theatre in December 2012 to see War Horse (again) - can't wait :)

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rather a scary nuclear missile on display with local map of its killing zone - very small but oh so deadly, that put the wind up me or maybe it was just the awful draught that for some reason was blowing around, its hopeless for any kind of research and all of a sudden they dimmed the lights and set off an air raid siren, few old folk looked ashen. maybe this is heresy but I'd go the Lowry and look at the pictures instead - altrhough you can do both i suppose

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