StoryFutures Academy Supports Imperial War Museums' Ground-Breaking New Galleries

  • StoryFutures
  • May 7th 2021
© IWM A 783kg V-1 flying bomb will be suspended between the two new galleries, presenting a striking symbol of how the Holocaust and the Second World War are interconnected.

Imperial War Museums (IWM) will open extensive new Second World War and The Holocaust Galleries at IWM London on 20 October 2021.

Three times the size of IWM’s award-winning First World War Galleries and spanning two floors at IWM London, this £30.7 million project will see IWM become the first museum in the world to house dedicated Second World War Galleries and Holocaust Galleries under the same roof. These two adjoining sets of galleries will 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.

Diane Lees, Director-General of IWM, said: “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. 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.”

To accompany these galleries, IWM is publishing two new books which will delve into the stories, events and themes explored in the galleries in more detail. IWM is also coordinating a dedicated Holocaust Learning Programme and a regional partnership programme with cultural heritage partners across the UK, designed to share interesting local histories related to IWM’s remit and collections. New digitally-enabled learning and event suites will also open at IWM London alongside the galleries in October.

© IWM Concept image Second World War Galleries. Exhibition Design by Ralph Appelbaum Associates

New Second World War and The Holocaust Galleries

Following on from IWM’s award-winning First World War Galleries, which opened in 2014 alongside a brand- new atrium with iconic large object displays, IWM’s Second World War and The Holocaust Galleries will continue the dynamic transformation of IWM London.

The Second World War tore apart the lives of millions across the world: as well as being pivotal to Britain’s history, it was a global conflict on an unprecedented scale, the like of which has not been seen since. With more than 1,500 collection items and personal stories from over 80 countries, the Second World War Galleries will highlight the vastly different experiences of those affected. IWM has collected significant, new acquisitions for its collection from China, the US, Japan and from across Britain’s former Empire to ensure that the museum can, for the first time, tell the truly global narrative of this conflict. The combination of these international stories together with the many objects and displays revealing British experiences, such as a deconstructed 1940s house that brings to life the devastating impact of the Blitz on ordinary lives, means that almost every visitor will feel a deep, personal connection with these galleries.

IWM’s new The Holocaust Galleries have been developed using the most up to date research and evaluation, including archive material only available since the end of the Cold War. Individual stories from some of the six million Jewish people murdered in the Holocaust will be told through over 2,000 photos, books, artworks and letters, and personal objects ranging from jewellery and clothing to toys and keepsakes. Visitors will encounter these stories in uniquely light spaces, shining a much-needed light on the horrors of the Holocaust and reflecting that these six million people were not murdered in the dark. Above all, these galleries will be pivotal in improving public understanding of how easily a modern state led a Europe-wide genocide in the twentieth century, and show that understanding our history is an essential step to combating prejudices still present in today’s society, such as antisemitism.

With the galleries nearing completion, the museum is now embarking on the final stages of conserving, interpreting and displaying the objects and stories that will bring this period in history to life for visitors. Ongoing works include the conservation of an important new acquisition for IWM: 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. This hugely significant object will represent a physical and narrative threshold in IWM’s new Holocaust Galleries, highlighting both the appalling conditions of concentration camps and the intricate relationship between the sub-camp network and the development of the Holocaust. It will also support the telling of stories that highlight the specific experience of women imprisoned in female-only environments during The Holocaust.

IWM is offering the public the opportunity to pledge their support in a public fundraising campaign to raise the final £250,000 that will support remaining projects such as the barrack’s conservation, and ultimately deliver these dynamic and innovative galleries.

© IWM Concept Image. Exhibition Design by Casson Mann

Second World War and Holocaust Partnership Programme

IWM’s Second World War and Holocaust Partnership Programme (SWWHPP) was established to collaborate with cultural partners across the UK and engage new audiences in projects which explore local Second World War and Holocaust collections and themes within the national context.

SWWHPP is generously funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and its eight regional partners are Aberystwyth University/Prifysgol Aberystwyth; Bodmin Keep and the Museum of Cornish Life; the Holocaust Survivors’ Friendship Association, Leeds and Huddersfield; Manchester Jewish Museum; the National Holocaust Centre and Museum, Nottinghamshire; National Museums Northern Ireland and Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums.

The partners are uncovering and sharing fascinating local stories through public engagement activities including digital content creation and exhibitions. StoryFutures Academy, The UK’s National Centre for Immersive Storytelling run by the National Film and Television School and Royal Holloway, University of London, are co-funders and co-developers of a key digital aspect of the programme. Led by Professor Adam Ganz, StoryFutures Academy writers’ rooms enabled each partner to connect with diverse communities and creative artists to explore a specific aspect of the Second World War or the Holocaust, interpreting it in new ways for audiences and contributing to the creation of a touring digital installation that will provide a unique, immersive sound experience for visitors.

To develop the sound experience for the digital installation, the partners are working with celebrated authors and artists Amina Atiq, Mercedes Kemp (WildWorks Theatre Company), Michael Rosen and Nicola Baldwin. The installation will be designed by creative agency, Joi Polloi. The installation will open in the atrium of IWM London in October before visiting regional destinations in 2022 and 2023.

More information on the SWWHPP is available on IWM’s website.

The Holocaust Learning Programme

To support students visiting IWM’s new galleries to learn about the Holocaust, IWM has developed a new Holocaust learning programme. Created by IWM experts, leading creative agency Friday Sundae Studio and award-winning writer Stef Smith, the programme uses ambitious digital technology, IWM collections and storytelling to encourage reflection, discussion and understanding of the Holocaust, creating a sensitive narrative that will support students learning about this difficult history. As well as visiting the Holocaust galleries, the programme will include time with a trained facilitator to ask questions and address queries, and resource packs will be provided to teachers to continue these conversations in the classroom. This programme is available for students aged 13+ (KS3 and above) who will be studying the Holocaust as part of the National Curriculum.

More information on the Holocaust Learning Programme is available on IWM’s website.

© IWM The Holocaust Galleries. Work continues on The Holocaust Galleries, opening 20 October 2021

New publications: Total War: A People’s History of the Second World War and The Holocaust

To support visitors wanting to delve deeper into the content and themes of IWM’s new galleries, and to further develop their understanding of the Second World War and the Holocaust, IWM is releasing two new publications in October 2021.

Total War: A People’s History of the Second World War by IWM curators Kate Clements, Paul Cornish and Vikki Hawkins is an innovative illustrated history of the Second World War, told with the help of personal stories from across the globe. Featuring many never-before-seen images as well as infographics and maps specially produced by designer and illustrator Valentina D’Efilippo, Total War is an essential volume for anyone with an interest in how a wide range of people experienced one of the most significant wars in modern history. Total War is published by Thames & Hudson in partnership with IWM.

The Holocaust by IWM historian James Bulgin features a wealth of archival material including emotive objects and unique personal testimonies, examining how the course of the Second World War as well as ideology and individual decision making were all critical factors in the execution of The Holocaust. The Holocaust will support readers to engage fully with the sensitive themes and content of the galleries, and learn about these seminal events in global history, the impact of which continues to present day. Author James Bulgin has led the curation of IWM’s new The Holocaust Galleries.


IWM Retail will be launching a host of unique, bold and inspired gifts and books to complement the opening of the new Second World War Galleries at IWM London. Highlights include designs that celebrate the pioneering contribution of women, conceptual patterns inspired by the immersive galleries themselves, a nod to the famous code breakers of Bletchley Park and a soon to be announced exclusive collaboration spotlighting the global nature of Second World War experiences. The launch will also see the return of best- selling ranges, D Day and The Battle of Britain.

Book Tickets

IWM London’s Second World War and The Holocaust Galleries open on 20 October. Entry is free, but pre- booking tickets for a timed slot is advisable. Members can book tickets from 7 May and general public from 14 May via IWM’s website.

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