10 Feb 2014

The Imperial War Museum

We visited the Imperial War Museum North (IWM) over the weekend when the skies were grey and there was a chill in the air. Perhaps it was providence that the weather should be so on the day we decided to visit the IWM.


As the name suggests, it is a museum dedicated to war. That should have warned me. But I was not prepared for the emotions I felt when I stepped into the main exhibition gallery on the first floor.

The lighting was subdued and my mood soon joined ranks. The display cases filled with war memorabilia, the weapons of destruction on display and the plaques on the walls narrating true stories of bravery in the face of horrific torture and possibe death did nothing to help. I felt cold, a terrible fear gripping at my heart. I clutched J close to me. Unconsciously, I must have passed on my fear, my anxiety, my terror to him. For within moments, he was asking to be carried out of the exhibition.

Under normal circumstances, I would have tried to calm him down, talked to him, showed him interesting artefacts and told him stories about them. This once, I could not. How could I point to a gun, to a landmine, to shrapnel and tell my toddler what they were? How could I tell him that almost all the things surrounding him in that room were sources of annihilation and of untold grief to millions? That they were used by men to harm their fellows?

Whichever side you are on, war is war. Win or lose, the cost is ultimately the same. The cost is always human life. A cost too high to pay for power, control and the dream of world domination. For it is nothing but a dream. No tyrant in history has ever achieved it and held on to it for eternity. Some may have come close, but the great leveller, Death, has always been on hand to ensure it is fleeting.

Unfortunately, lessons in history do not seem to deter the greed and hunger for superiority that gnaws into the very fabric of humankind. Conflicts continue. People die. And still we do not learn...

The last straw was when they started screening a film about the Blitz. The images surrounded me, the sound engulfed me and I felt I was gasping for breath. A terrible shiver was running down my spine. I carried J out of the room, down the stairs to find space to breathe.

Ironically, I found the Learning Room. A little area of peace where children can play and create. Watching J and all the children there, safe and engrossed in their little world, somewhat eased my despair.

In the Learning Room at the IWM
I cannot shield my child forever from the brutality of life, from the reality of war. But I can carry on hoping that he inherits a better world than the one he was born into. A world at peace.


36 comments:

  1. Love museums where children can get involved and do arts and crafts, makes the experience so much more personal!

    ReplyDelete
  2. We visited many years ago when I was at school and I was moved by the visit, it's an amazing place to go to.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It serves as a really good reminder of why we need peace.

      Delete
  3. It's been completely rebut over the past few years and is even more emotion-provoking. I love taking my Dad there, he was called up to the RAF in 1945 and worked in bomb disposal in Scotland (VV dangerous) and working on the planes on the ground. He can still, at 86, name any of the planes in Duxford from a glance.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There were quite a few war veterans there when we visited, and I could see it was very emotional for them.

      Delete
  4. Very good that there's a place away for the children to do something practical. It's amazing how much emotion can be hidden behind museum doors isn't it?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I really was not prepared for this. No museum has ever had this effect on me.

      Delete
  5. A very vivid and live description. I was imagining myself taking tour of the museum and could associate myself with the grief , suffering , fear and pain a war brings with itself. Sometimes I wonder what these museums or things want to depict..Is it bravery, the pain or just the human greed or ego?....I really enjoyed reading your feelings. Keep up the good work.

    ReplyDelete
  6. A very vivid and live description. I was imagining myself taking tour of the museum and could associate myself with the grief , suffering , fear and pain a war brings with itself. Sometimes I wonder what these museums or things want to depict..Is it bravery, the pain or just the human greed or ego?....I really enjoyed reading your feelings. Keep up the good work.

    ReplyDelete
  7. This museum is emotional if you have a shred of humanity. My son went when he was 12, I wouldn't recommend it for little ones.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That is right Mellissa. Next time we go, J and I will just head straight to the Learning Room. Until he is old enough at least.

      Delete
  8. Sounds like you had more than you bargained for there and sensible to shelter one so young. My own children are learning about the world wars in history at school and I'm sure would have loved all that was on offer at the museum

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I never felt so strongly about war when reading from history books at school. Guess becoming a mum just changes everything.

      Delete
  9. I used to love going there as a kid, can't wait to take the boys one day! x

    ReplyDelete
  10. My two were terrified in here - we didn't stay long at all x

    ReplyDelete
  11. I can just imagine, from your vivid description, how it must be in there. A museum does tell a story, and yes, you'd think we'd learn from these lessons

    ReplyDelete
  12. We visited last year and I thought it was a great way to introduce my son to history. The learning room is great too as they always have great activities going on.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Sounds like it was quite tough there although it must have been fascinating. We'd love to go there one day. Thanks for sharing with #whatsthestory

    ReplyDelete
  14. I struggle with war museums, they are an important reminder of the suffering and bravery, but I have to admit that I avoid visiting them. Great post x #WhatstheStory

    ReplyDelete
  15. I would really like to visit but it sounds like it's definitely too harrowing for little children...so I'll save it for a few years. The learning room looks great though!

    ReplyDelete
  16. I'd love to visit here one day.

    ReplyDelete
  17. I've not done war museums with my kiddies, I'm not sure I'm emotionally strong enough to cope with it well!

    ReplyDelete
  18. I remember going around the fields and museums in Belgium and France as a teen with school the emotions are so strong and poignant just reading your post took me back there, to the feelings it brought to the surface. x

    ReplyDelete
  19. We love the Imperial war museum - i have two teenage boys fascinated by war and I think it does a very good job of not glamourising it

    ReplyDelete
  20. Places like this are not fun but we should still go and see and experience and try to imagine... hopefully for better tomorrow

    ReplyDelete
  21. Would love to visit here. My eldest daughter is at the age now where this would be great for her x

    ReplyDelete
  22. Seeing things rather than being told is a much better way of feeling the emotion and therefore learning isn't it. Sounds a great place.

    ReplyDelete
  23. I normally love taking my toddler to museums, but sometimes the exhibitions are hard to digest. It's hard to explain such massive concepts to our kids and it always gives you the anxiety as a parent of how you would feel if your child was harmed. I'm glad you managed to enjoy the learning area though x

    ReplyDelete
  24. We have visited many museums in various countries but I never took my boys to the War Museum in London (even as teens) after a similarly disturbing visit as a child. I suppose, like you say, it's a good reminder of why we need peace #WhatsTheStory

    ReplyDelete
  25. I could go off on one about this lol, I think the media show too much of the 'bad' news which aids in the war and hatred of this world. If good news stories sold more and people became more interested in happiness rather than trying to make themselves happier by someone else's sorrow then things would improve. It absolute frightens me so much to what things will be like as my boys grow up! Glad you found the learning room.

    ReplyDelete
  26. It's a dilemma - it's important to teach our children about history, including war, but it can be a really disturbing thing to think about. I took my son to the Anne Frank Museum in Amsterdam last year and while there I was so moved I could barely speak but he was bored. It was worth taking him there though as it prompted conversations afterwards about WWII, Nazis, racism, anti-semitism, and the Holocaust.

    ReplyDelete
  27. A hard read. I don't think my kids are ready for this yet but I know that JD has learned about Remembrance Day at school and what it means. I think I'll wait a while before we go into any depth on the tough stuff.

    ReplyDelete
  28. I find it a depressing place to visit too, but also interesting and important. So glad they have some light relief in places like the children's area though.

    ReplyDelete

Please leave a comment. I like reading them all. Do leave your blog name (if you are a fellow blogger) so I can pop over for a read.

If you liked reading this post, why not subscribe to my blog? Just pop your email address in the little box below, and get all new posts delivered straight to your inbox. No spam, I promise x

Subscribe to My Blog by Email

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner