Imperial War Museum First World War Galleries by Foster + Partners

  • In the new First World War Galleries, screens and displays show visuals , objects and accounts of life on the front line

  • http://www.designcurial.com/Uploads/Project/9267/images/271564/large/1WWar-Gallery1.jpg$,

  • Contemporary objects and real-life accounts add visitor impact

  • http://www.designcurial.com/Uploads/Project/9267/images/271564/large/1WWar-Gallery1.jpg$,http://www.designcurial.com/Uploads/Project/9267/images/271565/large/1WWar-Gallery2a.jpg$,

  • Exhibits in the temporary Second World War exhibition by Casson Mann on the second floor, also schedules for refurbishment

  • http://www.designcurial.com/Uploads/Project/9267/images/271564/large/1WWar-Gallery1.jpg$,http://www.designcurial.com/Uploads/Project/9267/images/271565/large/1WWar-Gallery2a.jpg$,http://www.designcurial.com/Uploads/Project/9267/images/271567/large/1WWar-Gallery3a.jpg$,

  • Exhibits in the temporary Second World War exhibition by Casson Mann on the second floor, also schedules for refurbishment

  • http://www.designcurial.com/Uploads/Project/9267/images/271564/large/1WWar-Gallery1.jpg$,http://www.designcurial.com/Uploads/Project/9267/images/271565/large/1WWar-Gallery2a.jpg$,http://www.designcurial.com/Uploads/Project/9267/images/271567/large/1WWar-Gallery3a.jpg$,http://www.designcurial.com/Uploads/Project/9267/images/271568/large/1WWar-Gallery4a.jpg$,

  • The museum’s recreation of a First World War trench joins the new galleries, now with a Sopwith Camel aircraft overhead and a Mark V tank in the background

  • http://www.designcurial.com/Uploads/Project/9267/images/271564/large/1WWar-Gallery1.jpg$,http://www.designcurial.com/Uploads/Project/9267/images/271565/large/1WWar-Gallery2a.jpg$,http://www.designcurial.com/Uploads/Project/9267/images/271567/large/1WWar-Gallery3a.jpg$,http://www.designcurial.com/Uploads/Project/9267/images/271568/large/1WWar-Gallery4a.jpg$,http://www.designcurial.com/Uploads/Project/9267/images/271569/large/1WWar-Gallery5a.jpg$,

  • At the entrance to the new galleries, the outbreak of war is contextualized

  • http://www.designcurial.com/Uploads/Project/9267/images/271564/large/1WWar-Gallery1.jpg$,http://www.designcurial.com/Uploads/Project/9267/images/271565/large/1WWar-Gallery2a.jpg$,http://www.designcurial.com/Uploads/Project/9267/images/271567/large/1WWar-Gallery3a.jpg$,http://www.designcurial.com/Uploads/Project/9267/images/271568/large/1WWar-Gallery4a.jpg$,http://www.designcurial.com/Uploads/Project/9267/images/271569/large/1WWar-Gallery5a.jpg$,http://www.designcurial.com/Uploads/Project/9267/images/271571/large/1WWar-Gallery6a.jpg$,

  • The Battle of the Somme is given its own projection, the only individual battle to get such treatment

  • http://www.designcurial.com/Uploads/Project/9267/images/271564/large/1WWar-Gallery1.jpg$,http://www.designcurial.com/Uploads/Project/9267/images/271565/large/1WWar-Gallery2a.jpg$,http://www.designcurial.com/Uploads/Project/9267/images/271567/large/1WWar-Gallery3a.jpg$,http://www.designcurial.com/Uploads/Project/9267/images/271568/large/1WWar-Gallery4a.jpg$,http://www.designcurial.com/Uploads/Project/9267/images/271569/large/1WWar-Gallery5a.jpg$,http://www.designcurial.com/Uploads/Project/9267/images/271571/large/1WWar-Gallery6a.jpg$,http://www.designcurial.com/Uploads/Project/9267/images/271572/large/1WWar-Gallery7a.jpg$,

  • Casson Mann’s interpretation of the 75mm French field gun

  • http://www.designcurial.com/Uploads/Project/9267/images/271564/large/1WWar-Gallery1.jpg$,http://www.designcurial.com/Uploads/Project/9267/images/271565/large/1WWar-Gallery2a.jpg$,http://www.designcurial.com/Uploads/Project/9267/images/271567/large/1WWar-Gallery3a.jpg$,http://www.designcurial.com/Uploads/Project/9267/images/271568/large/1WWar-Gallery4a.jpg$,http://www.designcurial.com/Uploads/Project/9267/images/271569/large/1WWar-Gallery5a.jpg$,http://www.designcurial.com/Uploads/Project/9267/images/271571/large/1WWar-Gallery6a.jpg$,http://www.designcurial.com/Uploads/Project/9267/images/271572/large/1WWar-Gallery7a.jpg$,http://www.designcurial.com/Uploads/Project/9267/images/271573/large/1WWar-Gallery8a.jpg$,

  • The War Table

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  • Howitzer gun and the Battle of the Somme projection

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In the centenary year of the outbreak of the First World War the Imperial War Museum unveils its new galleries by Casson Mann dedicated to the conflict.

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Client: Imperial War Museum London

Exhibition Designer: Casson Mann

Architect: Foster + Partners

Size: 1050 sq m

Cost: £4,235,000

Duration: 26 months


Words by Emily Martin

As part of Imperial War Museum London's refurbishment, exhibition design practice Casson Mann has designed the museum's new First World War Galleries, which have reopened to coincide with the centenary anniversary events taking place throughout the year.

Casson Mann has been working with the museum's curatorial team since 2011 to develop the new scheme for IWM London, including a large object installation in the Foster + Partners-designed atrium and a series of temporary installations representing post- 1918 conflicts.

Contemporary objects and real-life accounts add visitor impact
Contemporary objects and real-life accounts add visitor impact

After three years of extensive research Roger Mann, Casson Mann's creative director, says that the biggest challenge was processing the findings, that were the basis for reimagining the First World War galleries. Wanting to break from the 'inevitable expectations associated with a timeline of battles' Mann involved the entire team in the creative process to create a unique gallery experience that differs from the many other exhibitions, galleries, books and films on the subject.

Exhibits in the temporary Second World War exhibition by Casson Mann on the second floor, also schedules for refurbishment
Exhibits in the temporary Second World War exhibition by Casson Mann on the second floor, also schedules for refurbishment

Bold display narratives and graphic devices weave together large and small objects with media, which play a key feature in delivering a powerful visitor experience. Curating the galleries by using a sense of 'now,' audio narratives of personal accounts and opinions are accompanied by individual objects to create an impact and make it feel real. 'These stories and objects bring to life the men and women who made them, or used them, or were attacked by them, or kept them as symbols of their struggle,' says Mann.

Exhibits in the temporary Second World War exhibition by Casson Mann on the second floor, also schedules for refurbishment
Exhibits in the temporary Second World War exhibition by Casson Mann on the second floor, also schedules for refurbishment

Casson Mann has arranged the exhibition as answers to the anticipated visitor questions: Why did it start? How did it end? And how did it lead into another world war? The first gallery sets the tone and marks the start of the journey, with an engaging animation evocative of early 1900s' satirical cartoon maps, but fulfilling contemporary expectations of media and narrative. Set in a dark-oak panelled room, with a large table at its centre, the interior design is suggestive of an government room being used for strategising and planning from the home front. Using 'Hope and Glory' as the opening exhibition theme, the animation explains the complex ambitions and political rivalries of the day and the political conflicts being fought out at home.

The museum’s recreation of a First World War trench joins the new galleries, now with a Sopwith Camel aircraft overhead and a Mark V tank in the background
The museum's recreation of a First World War trench joins the new galleries, now with a Sopwith Camel aircraft overhead and a Mark V tank in the background

Walking through to the main gallery space brings visitors straight into battle and introduces the Western Front, with the exhibition taking a visual divide. On one side is muddy-coloured, multiheight display cases, with text and etched around glass display units that exhibit objects associated with a physical and emotional battle. Made using jesmonite, the units exhibit painful or treasured memories and have been colour-matched to the fields in northern France, and even detail plough marks to illustrate the winter months of battle.

At the entrance to the new galleries, the outbreak of war is contextualized
At the entrance to the new galleries, the outbreak of war is contextualized

'The home front...is representative of the tables and chairs used in this space, as this is where the strategies are made,' explains Mann, pointing to a visually warmer - even cosy - looking space. 'You can also see posters on the wall, whereas we purposefully kept the walls clear on the Western Front side to visually push the walls back.'

Delivering a contemporary exhibition experience about such a brutal and complex conflict without simplification or sentimentality demands a finely tuned concept and a sense of performance. A key example is Casson Mann's portrayal of the 75mm French field gun as well as the shock generated by the resulting casualties in land battles between August and November 1914.

With no actual film footage available of these early battles, Casson Mann has tastefully explains the complex ambitions and political rivalries of the day and the political conflicts being fought out at home.

The Battle of the Somme is given its own projection, the only individual battle to get such treatment
The Battle of the Somme is given its own projection, the only individual battle to get such treatment

Walking through to the main gallery space brings visitors straight into battle and introduces the Western Front, with the exhibition taking a visual divide. On one side is muddy-coloured, multiheight display cases, with text and etched around glass display units that exhibit objects associated with a physical and emotional battle. Made using jesmonite, the units exhibit painful or treasured memories and have been colour-matched to the fields in northern France, and even detail plough marks to illustrate the winter months of battle. 'The home front...is representative of the tables and chairs used in this space, as this is where the strategies are made,' explains Mann, pointing to a visually warmer - even cosy - looking space. 'You can also see posters on the wall, whereas we purposefully kept the walls clear on the Western Front side to visually push the walls back.'

Casson Mann’s interpretation of the 75mm French field gun
Casson Mann's interpretation of the 75mm French field gun

Delivering a contemporary exhibition experience about such a brutal and complex conflict without simplification or sentimentality demands a finely tuned concept and a sense of performance. A key example is Casson Mann's portrayal of the 75mm French field gun as well as the shock generated by the resulting casualties in land battles between August and November 1914.

With no actual film footage available of these early battles, Casson Mann has tastefully as possible designed a powerful animation depicting life-size soldiers falling as they charge into battle. Projected on to a freestanding aluminium screen that has been cut and layered to evoke the forms of war artist Christopher Nevinson's Soldiers Returning From the Front and synced to a soundscape that simulates the first-person perspective of hearing the guns' explosions at close range. The effect is vivid and startling.

The War Table
The War Table

Casson Mann's richly layered scenographic structure continues through to the 1916 battle of the Somme - the only battle exhibit. A projection of the world heritage film Battle of the Somme is overlaid with scenes of blue skies and green fields at the same locations but in 2013 to illustrate the dramatic contrast of the war at the front. 'Ensuring the right sound was also key,' says Mann. 'It's not a cinema, so it was important to use sound to hint rather than overpower. You don't want a big Dolby, echoing sound.'

A strong narrative for understanding the dynamics of the First World War blends the display of large and small physical objects with digital-media interactives, projections, suggestive soundscapes and authentic voices telling their stories throughout the exhibition. Reliving the experiences as a physical time line, which includes the pre-refubishment visitor highlight: a trench experience.

Now located in a double-height void, with a British Mark V tank at its entrance and a Sopwith Camel plane overhead, the trench features soil texture and tool marks to finish the trench walls. 'We actually dug a trench in Kent, using a recreated trench-digging tool,' says Mann, highlighting Casson Mann's attention to detail on the installation. 'We also decided to remove the dummies, as previously featured in the experience, in favour of a light-and-shadow projection to sensitively portray day-today life in the trenches,' he says. Casson Mann has transformed the whole theatre experience with an accompanying soundscape of birdsong, the murmur of voices and occasional gun fire.

Howitzer gun and the Battle of the Somme projection
Howitzer gun and the Battle of the Somme projection

Marking the end of the First World War galleries is a film montage exploring the legacy of the war and the social and political context of Europe in terms of the effect of the Treaty of Versailles, signed after the end of the war. Archive footage, posters, news cuttings and photographs reflect recovery and re-establishment, with the film providing a contextual link to the events that led to the Second World War and acting as an introduction to the Second World War galleries.

On each level Casson Mann has created dramatic installations or 'display clusters' to tell key stories. 'While temporary, these displays still need to do a big job in that they will effectively represent key events in the major post-1918 conflicts until the full refurbishment programme has been completed,' says Mann.

'We were entrusted with great experimental freedom in how to represent key themes and events, and to do this we chose to draw out the stories of the objects themselves.'
cassonmann.co.uk

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