Imperial War Museums – founded at the end of the First World War - is unique as a national museum in covering war in all its manifestations- political, diplomatic, social, operational, scientific, and cultural.
Across its five sites, IWM illustrates and records all aspects of modern war and of the individual’s experience of it. This remit is vast, both geographically and in terms of the momentous events covered. IWM aims for a presentation of history which is balanced, dynamic and very thoroughly researched. Our mission is to help people, as global citizens, make sense of today by having a deeper understanding of the connections between past conflict and the contemporary world.
A very considerable amount of curatorial effort is spent assisting and guiding those involved in research, and our staff aim to participate in current research agendas, contributing their thoughts and their own knowledge – often formed through years of close contact with collections - to help shape emerging debates and areas of enquiry.
With the award of Independent Research Organisation status (2010), IWM has been able to pursue its research agenda more vigorously, and in a more strategic way.
Research enriches our work and pushes back the frontiers of what we know. IWM’s collections have long provided vital source material to academics of many different disciplines, and there is a close and ongoing interaction between IWM staff and colleagues in the higher education sector.
As conflict since 1914 is taught in most universities in the UK, there are many academics and students wishing to engage with IWM and its collections. Almost every historian with expertise in modern conflict has had occasion to consult our collection, which is referenced in countless academic books and papers on all aspects of conflict and service life since 1914.
Over the past years, our interaction with academics has become increasingly interdisciplinary. Recent collaborations have seen us engaging with a new intellectual climate with questions that challenge long-held assumptions – a process which in turn brings vitality and ‘the unexpected’ to our public programmes.
The new knowledge and fresh insight brought to the museum through collaboration feeds into learning resources, exhibitions and conferences. Both our permanent galleries and our temporary displays have drawn on input from academic colleagues.
Furthermore, the international nature of our subject matter means that there are regular opportunities for dialogue with academics and other heritage organizations from around the globe.
Museum practice provides another area for investigation: IWM sees thousands of schoolchildren arrive each day as part of their national curriculum studies. How best to provide for their often wide-ranging needs in an engaging and sustainable way affords numerous lines of enquiry.
We aim to deepen dialogue in all these spheres and more – both to import fresh ideas and to benefit from the sharing of knowledge that contact with schools and universities can bring to our curatorial work and public programming.