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The Imperial War Museum North (Manchester)

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8 Reviews

Address: The Quays / Trafford Wharf Trafford Park / Manchester / Greater Manchester / M17 1TZ / England

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    8 Reviews
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      07.02.2012 22:23



      Close it

      Ive been to the IWM about 50 times and up the air shard about 15 times. It's always disappointing to visit. When they cut the budget for the build, they should have gone further and canned it altogether. Maybe they did can it when they accepted a metal cladding. Put a similar building up in London and there would be riots.

      The building is like a windy warehouse and no doubt one day that it is what it will be and the rent wll be cheap. Outside it has some attraction, but it has little grandeur and close up its dreadful. The entrance is completely inhospitable and whilst I can understand a monument to war being that way, this is a public space and should be welcoming. The security staff have a one hour rota at the main door because it's such an awful place to be.

      Inside things don't get better. The Reception is unfriendly, low ceiling and a tiny shop. More in common with a second rate cinema. From there on its a nightmare of a building. The coldet cafe in Britain, and the passageways and stairs are very badly designed. The display space is awful with nothing but a poorly lit second class slideshow, if you're lucky. There's not a straight vertical wall in the place and I understand the lack of regularity as reflecting on war itself, but again this is meant to be a museum with artefacts on show. The walls are in fact not needed because there's next to nothing on show. The museum has been shortchanged. The public have been shortchanged.

      I live in Trafford and a frequent museum visitor, but tbh, I'd be quite happy for this place to close. I think the message would be more valuable under those conditions. The dereliction of war.

      I am pleased however that it wasn't built out of concrete, as originally planned. This way there'll be some value in the metal scrap !


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      08.12.2011 18:43
      Very helpful



      A very well presented museum and still free to enter

      Imperial War Museum, Salford Quays

      During our weekend away with friends in Altringham we spent the day in Salford Quays visiting this museum and the Lowry centre.

      We arrived at the Quays by train which cost us £10 for four adults from Altringham for a day rover ticket which we thought was brilliant value. If you come by car then there are plenty of parking spaces but I suspect it probably isn't cheap.

      Like the London Imperial War Museum this one is free to enter. From the outside it looks very modern and sleek. It is built to represent different shards of the world breaking apart as the result of conflict and war. Inside the feeling is one of space and the displays are just so well set out and displayed in such a wide variety of ways.

      The very first exhibit we came across was a Harrier Jump Jet and I was quite surprised at how small they are. It is a full sized aircraft and standing beside or under it I felt quite small but I still thought they might actually be bigger than this one was.

      The next display was just a window with an object to represent every conflict the UK had been involved in during the 20th century. It was interesting how such simple things like a letter or some ones' hat could be so poignant.

      Exhibits varied from the large ones such as a blown up car from Iraq or the large piece of metal from the Twin Towers through to the tubes with smells from inside an air raid shelter that you could lift and sniff in order to guess what it might be.

      I was specially moved by the recordings of real people in some of the areas. One woman described how as a young girl in Berlin one day she had gone out and looked up into a tree to see what looked like bit of rubbish that turned out to be bits of a British pilot blown out of his plane. She never felt the same about war since.

      The section on women in the war was also very inspiring. How women who had previously been housewives were able to turn their hand to farm work, munitions factory work and even complex aircraft manufacture. Then when the men returned they had to return to being housewives once again.

      At specific time in the main exhibition area all the lights are dimmed and there is a film show with lights and sound telling about life in the cities in WWII. There was a mixture of archive film and interviews with people who had lived through the war; the whole thing was very well done, inspiring and moving too. This was followed by a performance by a lady acting the role of a lady who worked in a munitions factory who had sent her children away to be evacuated. She was excellent, very convincing and she even sang an old wartime song.

      I was impressed with the many and varied exhibits. One was like a huge filing cabinet and some of the 'drawers' opened. It was a drawer that represented a person; just a normal everyday person who had lived through the wartime. There were a few of their personal passions which helped to tell a bit about them and their role or life in that time. Some of the people had died and some survived but it was all quite emotional seeing these very personal passions telling their stories.

      We decided that we needed a coffee so made our way out towards the coffee shop. This is also a pretty large area with great views over the canal towards the Lowry building. The place was clean and very modern with large tables and plenty of chairs. You could have had a selection of hot meals from fish pie to lasagne through to shepherd's pie and similar dishes. Also on offer were a number of different cakes, chocolate and biscuits as well as coffee, tea and hot chocolate and cold drinks too.

      These were downstairs and there were quite a number so we had no queue even in the ladies. They were clean and there were also disables ones just nearby too. On this same level was the inevitable shop.

      THE SHOP
      This did have items that were typical of every gift shop, pencil, rubbers, and magnets etc. There were lots of war memorabilia in the form of replica ration books, gas masks, model aircraft and many, many books about the war, recipe books using recipes from the time and a lot of really interesting items to bring the war time to this generation.

      Yes indeed. It is many years since I have been to the Imperial War museum in London so i won't try and compare them but I was very impressed with the presentation of the exhibits and how very family friendly they had made the place. There were many hands on exhibits and the way the other items were presented really made them feel real. One exhibit had a stuffed toy dog made from an army blanket. It was made by a soldier for his superior officer's daughter so that he could have some time off. I bet he never thought it would be see all these years later in a museum.

      The museum is huge and in reality you could spend an entire day exploring the different exhibits but we spent about three hours in there and saw but a small part of it. There was a special exhibition on war correspondents and some of our friends stayed and explored that rather than going over to the Lowry Building. They said it was one of the best exhibitions they have seen and it was a very moving experience.

      This would be a perfect place to take a class of children learning about any war time during the 20th century. I would say that if your child is interested or is learning about any of these periods in history a visit to this museum will certainly make it more real to them through the many different exhibits.

      Thank for reading. This review may be posted in other sites under my same user name.


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      • More +
        14.07.2010 07:25



        You won't visit IWM North, you'll experience it

        Officially called the Imperial War Museum North, this is newest of five branches of the Imperial War Museum, which deals with twentieth and twenty-first-century conflicts in which Britain has been involved.

        The external design fails in its intention to symbolise the life-shattering effects of war. It's so brutal that the human element is indiscernible. Inside, however, visitors' perusal of displays is interrupted by vivid all-encompassing audio-visual displays of wartime experience. There's no escape. You're not there to enjoy yourself.

        Those of us born in the decade after 1945 have special knowledge of life in wartime. Traumatised adults who'd been bombed out of their homes, who had never recovered from the loss of a loved one, or who had gone hungry during rationing, never ceased reminding us children how lucky we were. For baby boomers, IWM North will resurrect unhappy uncles and aunties, now dead.

        Entry is free. Google 'IWM North' for location, direction and opening times.


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          24.02.2010 11:40
          Very helpful



          a great day out for older children and their family

          Myself and my family went to the imperial war museum a few months ago I found the whole affair exciting.
          The car park charges £4 per car even for disabled badge holders but there is a lot of space.
          Entry to the museum itself is free although there is a small charge to go onto the viewing area which goes very high into the sky and you can see all over Manchester staying up there for as long as you want.
          Be warned though it does get very windy up there as there is very little protecting you from the weather this view alone is worth the journey to the museum but there is much more.

          On arriving to the museum we had our bags searched not sure if they were trying to show us what would happen in war time or if they were scared of terrorists but it made me feel odd about it.

          Immediately inside there is a huge shop which I spent a long time looking at all the replicas of old things that were there. When done I was given a photo pass which meant I could take photos in certain areas of the museum. Anyone wanting to take photos will need this.

          Inside the museum is fully wheelchair accessible although it did go dark very quickly when one of the many shows were being held. These told the tale of war with large lights pictures and people talking about their memories.

          All around there were glass areas filled with interesting things each with a paragraph about them. Usefully for me there were paper copies in a folder near each glass area as I find it hard to see clearly.
          This folder told everything that the glass area told but in large writing.

          There is a café there for food and drink although I brought a picnic so I cannot comment on that.

          All in all I found the day trip fun and interesting ok it could maybe have been better in some areas but for free how can you complain myself and my family enjoyed it and if you go there with an open mind you will too.


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          05.08.2009 13:20
          Very helpful



          A good museum

          The Imperial War Museum North is located in Manchester/Salford/Stretford (depending on where you're from!) and it is exactly what it says in the title, a war museum.

          On a waterfront setting, it's easily accessible by car both by travelling from the Manchester city centre or from the M60 ring-road. The museum is a few minutes away from Old Trafford football ground, which is difficult to miss so that's a useful guideline. It is clearly signposted around the area and it isn't difficult to find at all. For parking there is a large car-park on site. You have to pay to stay there but it's only a small charge and as you well see later, this is perfectly acceptable. For me it was anyway, I paid £3 which covered an ample time.

          Luckily for me, I got a lift here with a friend who was also coming. With me being a mere pedestrian usually, I can imagine it is more difficult to get to as a pedestrian. I think the easiest way is going by tram to Harbour City, from there it will take approximately 15/20 minutes walk, which isn't too bad. Alternatively, buses run to the close by Trafford Park, I believe it's the 250 service that begins in Piccadilly Gardens. You could walk it from Manchester city centre but it would take just over an hour which is too much for many people

          The building itself was designed by one of these swanky archietects knocking around these days and won't be to everyone's taste. It's a modern building with lots of metal and concrete. The archietect says he imagined the world split into sections and he put them together. The three main pieces symbolise the three areas of combat, land, sea and air. I'm not usually a fan of buildings like this but for this museum it didn't bother me too much. Maybe that's because the museum is fairly isolated in it's position and the buildings that are around are mostly modern too so it dosn't look out of place. It has good accessibility for wheelchair users.

          The museum is free to get in, which is great. They don't thrust donation boxes in your face at every available opportunity either so it made for a great, cheap day out. So, now you can see why I didn't mind the small car-park charge, I mean they have to make some money from somewhere.

          I found the staff to be friendly and helpful. Many of them are volunteers which often means they are passionate about the museum content, so they are good for information you may need and such like. The museum attracts a lot of school trips and from what I saw they were good with children too.

          The museum has plenty for kids to keep interested in. There are interactive computer screens, things to smell, things to play with etc. When I was there many of them were having great fun trying to find these 'stamp stations' where they would collect different stamps on their card around the museum. That was a good touch and kept them occupied whilst the adults read some of the more complex stories and exhibits.

          The museum is well laid out and is split into two sections, one of the main hall which remains at a constant throughout the year. The other half is a specialist area, the exhibit changes every few months. At the moment it's all about POW camps which I found fascinating. There are many stories of prisoners making cameras with scraps they found around the camp, escape stories, that sort of thing. There are lots of photographs from the prisoners that smuggled their handmade cameras around which is great and gives you a sense of atmosphere. Seeing their faces as they went through the motions of prison life, the emotion on their faces as they were about to be freed etc.
          There were many items that were interesting, such as letters sent whilst prisoners were in the camp. There was particular poem there that was beautiful and poignant that I hadn't known about before and indeed, it seems google is non the wiser. Unforunately I didn't have enough time to copy it down but I found reading poems like this in the flesh really special. There are things like handmade radios prisoners made, uniforms, medals, paintings the prisoners painted, tools they used, etc. All have extensive notes accompanying them to keep you informed. The information boards around the museum are not overwhelming and are easy to follow, which is good for adults and children alike. Adults will have to explain to children along the way as well though.

          The main hall is set-up in chronological order of different wars. The main areas as you would expect are World War One/Two. There is a wealth of information here and items worth looking and reading about. I was particularly pleased to see Bernard Montgomery's famous cap with both an Army and RAF emblem on there. To think that was worn by him as he creeped across the desert, planned D-Day etc in was a really special moment for me. The museum also has vehicles and large weapons dotted around to look at, which is a good touch. However, despite there being many items I can't help but feel they could have more in there. Ok, they are limited on space to a certain degree but I did feel they could fit more in somewhere. Particularly vehicles, especially compared to the Imperial War Museum in London, which has a wealth of vehicles.

          The museum is very dark inside but the exhibits are lit nicely. They can't have the lights too bright in them to protect the items inside. The darkness adds to the atmosphere of gloom that is present in times of war. In the main hall, this atmosphere is added to with lots of sounds going on but they aren't annoying and too loud. They act as background noise which is a nice touch. The main hall also has films shown innotively on lots of different walls. When I was there it was a series of recollections about the blitz, different images were on different walls so there was a lot going on. You are surrounded by these images so it was a good experience and certainly different to simply watching a television. I liked this a lot, the film was very well made and I liked looking all around and seeing something different.

          There is a cafe/restaurant on site and typical of most museums, it is quite pricey. The choice of food isn't great either but it's not too bad. Me and my friend managed to find lunch we liked anyway. The cafe/restaurant has good views across the water and from what I worked out, the new BBC building.

          There is also a shop on site which is good. It has lots of books, DVDs, posters, bits and pieces, postcards, flags, etc. All the books are sold at RRP so it's probably best to buy them elsewhere but I found a book there I had never heard about before that I liked so I took a note of it. The World War Two posters are very good and would look great on a bedroom/study/even living room wall as a nice quirky touch. They are reprints of the orginial posters put up around Britain during that war. There are also lots of things that children would like, which depending on your mood that day, is either a good or bad thing!

          Another nice feature of the museum is it has a viewing platform. You go up in a lift to a platform high up and it has good views of Manchester and the surrounding areas. It's good seeing the old buildings of the old industry that was once there, mixed with the ever growing areas of development in the Salford Quays area. It is a small charge to go on the platform, I can't remember exactly but it was definitely under a pound per person. When I say it is high up, it's hardly the CNN tower but it provides good views nontheless. It's easy to find at the entrance.

          A good museum for children and adults. Not perfect but well worth a visit.
          I've been to a a fair few military museums around the world and for me the Imperial War Museum in London takes some beating, this museum is not as good as that but certainly holds its own against other museums.


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          • More +
            28.04.2009 23:38



            Buy a parking ticket for two hours and weep when you realise you've seen it all in 45 minutes.

            Dreadful museum that's not worth the entry price.
            Admission, I should add, is free.

            The main problem is that there is nothing in it - which is a bit fundamental in a museum. Odd bits of uniforms, a Trabant car (why?), a 13pdr gun, a few small arms, some letters from POW's, soldiers and civilians which, I assume, are to show how terrible war is. Well I know how terrible war is. I want to learn something new and this museum fails miserably to teach you anything.

            Secondary to the museums failure is the building itself. It's by an award winning architect so you just know it's going to be bad. And it is. Dingy and ill lit with bare concrete and some truly bewildering detailing. For example the main staircase has a hand rail running down the middle. Nothing odd about that except that if you go up the left hand side of the stairs you find that half way up the handrail moves across until it meets the wall and you have to go back down and come up the right side. Hilarious! I just laughed and laughed.


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            09.04.2009 10:18
            Very helpful
            1 Comment



            If you are nearby visit this museum!

            I went to the Imperial War Museum North in Manchester just to pass a couple of hours while we happened to be in Manchester as we were going to watch Manchester United vs. Aston Villa at Old Trafford (what a great match that was!)

            On the second floor there are all the various exhibitions are and there are two rooms one for the main exhibition and one for special exhibitions which are not always there.

            Every hour in the Main Exhibition there is the award winning Big Picture show which shows different parts of the War and there are 3 different shows which last between about 12-20 minutes. These shows are projected onto the walls and there are various sounds and music going on and it really is brilliant!

            I think that this Museum is really good and is well worth a visit. The museum is nicely laid out and there are some very interesting displays.
            In the middle of the displays there are various large objects like a Russian tank which was my favourite as it was so impressive. You are not allowed to climb on these objects but can look around them and read the notices about them.

            There are also lots of fun and interactive displays called action stations. One of these involved different coloured lights flashing on and off and you having to work with someone else to press the light that is flashing at the bottom which teaches children about the importance of teamwork.

            Overall this museum is really good and great for children to visit too. The museum is also free to enter but at the start they offer you to buy a guide book for about £4 which to be honest were not very good but it does help the museum expand and improve.

            There is also a gift shop with some good posters and some other souvenirs and war items but they are very expensive!

            You can also go up a thing called the Air Shard for about a £1 which gives you a view of Manchester and is a massive viewing platform.

            I would say this museum is well worth a visit if you are nearby or on holiday but I don`t think it will last a whole day but there are various other things nearby like the Lowry and of course Old Trafford and also a shopping centre with a cinema!


            Opening times (taken from the http://north.iwm.org.uk/ which is the official website.)

            The Museum is open 7 days a week:
            1 March - 2 November 10am - 6pm
            3 November - 28 February 10am - 5 pm
            Last admission is 30 minutes prior to closing.


            The Quays
            Trafford Wharf Road
            Manchester M17 1TZ


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              07.04.2009 23:20
              Very helpful



              Definitely worth a visit.


              I remember going to the Imperial War Museum in London when I was a child and having a great time, so when I discovered there was one here in the North, I decided to pay a visit.

              The Imperial War Museum North is housed in an obscure, but interesting, looking building and is basically made up of two floors:

              The ground floor is the entrance and includes the gift shop, a dining room (where you can eat your packed lunch, if you've brought one), a cloak room, learning studio and the elevator to the Air Shard (which is a 29 metre high viewing platform, from which you can see most of Manchester).

              The second floor is where the exhibition rooms are. There are two; the Main Exhibition Space which contains the permanent display of war artefacts and the Special Exhibitions gallery which contains the temporary exhibitions. When I visited the temporary exhibition was a display of female war artists' work, which was well worth the visit alone.

              The Main Exhibition Space is also where they present the award-winning Big Picture Show, which is a 360 degree audio-visual experience showing different aspects of the war in approximately 15 minute shows, every hour.

              My Opinion

              The museum is fantastic, in my opinion. It's really well laid out and easy to work your way around. There is an even balance of visual, emotional and informative display items that makes it suitable for the whole family.

              The Museum is presented in a big open space, that is easy to wander round in a logical order, following the timeline that runs around the edge of the room covering 1914 to the present day in digestible periods - World War I, The inter-war period, World War II, After the war until 1990 and 1990 to the present day. This is particularly good because you generally think of the World Wars when you consider wars in general, but it gives a interesting and thought-provoking look at the wars of this generation, which are often over-looked (by me anyway).

              There are some great 'large objects' which break up the educational bits nicely. The most impressive is the Harrier Jump-jet hanging in the entrance. Also on display are a Trabant estate car and a T34 Russian tank. You obviously can't climb on the objects, but you can get a good look at the insides of them and there are descriptions of them and quotes from people who've used them.

              There are also a number of small rooms (called Silos) which each display a different aspect of war, such as Women and War (which has souvenirs that notable women from each war have collected) and Experience of War (which is laid out like a living room and contains games, newspapers and foods from the various wars).

              The museum is very child-friendly, with plenty of opportunities for children to learn whilst having fun at the action stations. These include learning how to crack codes and dressing up in camouflage. Whilst we were there, there were many children wandering round with smiles on their faces as they explored the various exhibits and enjoyed the object handling sessions hosted by the museum staff.

              By far and away the best bit of the museum though was the Big Picture display. Every hour, the main room goes dark and images and sounds of the war are displayed on the walls, giving you a very real experience of the war through the eyes of the people who experienced it first-hand. The presentation we watched was 'Children and War', which gave the accounts of children from all the countries that have been involved in wars throughout the last century. It was a very moving account and I found it very interesting to see how war affects the people involved.

              Overall, I would definitely say that the museum is worth a visit and a donation. It is suitable for people of all ages and gives a thought-provoking and moving account of events that are happening around the world even now.

              Other information

              The museum is located on the riverside at The Quays in Salford and is easily accessible by road, car and train.

              The museum itself is free to enter, although you do have to visit the entry desk to 'check in' where a member of staff politely enquires whether you'd 'like to help the museum to expand and improve by making a valuable donation of £3.95' (for which price you get an all-singing, all-dancing guide book!). We gave the guide book a miss, saying that we'd make our own donation. There are plenty of donation boxes around the museum and, to be honest, you don't need a guide book, as the museum is quite small and the exhibits well-labelled.

              There is a great gift shop where you can buy from an extensive range of war literature, museum souvenirs and war-inspired items such as ration cook-books and foods.

              The museum is open seven days a week from 10am until 6pm (March to September) and 10am until 5pm (November to February). Last admission is 30 minutes prior to closing.

              Whilst it probably only takes a couple of hours to explore the museum, it's easy to make it part of a day out, as there is an outlet mall, theatre and plenty of restaurants close by, as well as Old Trafford (if you're that way inclined, which I'm definitely not!).


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