Great collections: a visit to London's Imperial War Museum

The militaria collector or investor looking for information or inspiration will do well to pay a visit to London's Imperial War Museum. The museum documents warfare from the First World War to today, with a particular emphasis on Britain and the Commonwealth.

Just south of the river Thames and conveniently near Waterloo train station, the museum's grounds are dominated by two 15-inch naval guns from the Second World War. But it is inside that the really impressive displays occur.

A breathtaking collection of planes, boats and tanks from the two world wars is housed in the main hall of the museum. Planes include a Sopwith Camel from the first conflict and a Second World War Spitfire as well as a Focke-Wulf Fw 190.

Beyond the main hall visitors will find a wealth of militaria collections from the First World War onwards. These include uniforms, firearms, medals and poetry by writers with experience of the trenches such as Siegfried Sassoon, Robert Graves, and Wilfred Owen.

The Imperial War Museum's main hall

The museum is famed for its trench and blitz experiences, which aim to portray the horror that was fighting in and attempting to survive the two world wars.

A temporary exhibition displaying Lord Ashcroft's collection of Victoria and George Crosses, the world's largest collection of its type, is currently on at the museum. The exhibition focuses on the stories behind the medals and examines the idea of bravery.

There are also exhibitions covering the Holocaust, the world of espionage, and crimes against humanity.

There is an art gallery of war related works, including pieces by John Singer Sargent.

The museum has a number of related sites around the country housing many notable artefacts, and some, in the case of HMS Belfast, are relics in their own right. The Imperial War Museum, Duxford, has Europe's leading collection of war planes.

In addition to the public displays, the museum undertakes a huge amount of work behind the scenes, compiling notable documents and objects of importance with a view to gaining a better understanding of the history of warfare and improving the exhibitions for the public.


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