Our dexterous contributor Charlie checks out the Imperial War Museum North, tucked behind Manchester United Old Trafford football ground, here’s her verdict.
…As a vintage lover, it’s very easy to glamorise some of the darker periods in our history. Picture a handsome man in a WWII army uniform and you think of Vera Lynn, Victory Rolls and underwear made of parachute silk.
You might not be thinking of families torn apart, death, evacuation and that handsome man going off to the horrors of war and not returning.
Though this sounds strong, it’s something we often forget and to be honest, my recent trip to the Imperial War Museum North was a little bit of a reality check. It’s all too easy to think of the romance of an era, rather than the reality.
Not that the Museum is all doom and gloom, far from it. It’s brilliant. It offers something for all levels of visitor, from someone with an avid interest, to the more casual visitor- perhaps a parent visiting with the kids.
The most important part of the Museum are the staff. They’re very knowledgeable and their activities such as What Nancy Did Next (a story told about Nancy, a WWII Land Girl, using puppets/dolls) to the Time Stack Handling sessions (where staff allow you to get hands on with artefacts) mean that even the youngest of visitor can learn comfortably.
Another striking element is the Big Picture Show. At set times every day, the rooms darken and images are projected onto the walls, accompanied by interviews and recordings on a specific subject. While we were there, the show covered ‘Children and War’. Listening to children talk about evacuation, separation, bombing and their experiences as child soldiers is probably harder on the adults than it is on the children.
However, before we surround ourselves with the negative, there are positives to be found in war. The exhibition Saving Lives: Frontline Medicine in a Century of Conflict is incredible. Looking at medicine on the front line, from the earliest conflicts to the present day, it charts some of the developments in medicine that may not have been possible without war. Without the extreme conditions on the battlefield, or the particular wounds experienced, we may not have developed so many techniques that save lives every day.
I cannot praise it enough. Conflict is such an important part of our history and time creates distance and romance, but it’s the reality that is important.
How else are we going to avoid it in future?