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Ralph Appelbaum Associates celebrates opening of Second World War Galleries at IWM

New galleries feature untold stories and unseen objects from around the world


Ralph Appelbaum Associates (RAA), a multidisciplinary firm specialising in the planning and design of museums, exhibits, educational environments and visitor attractions, is celebrating the new Second World War Galleries at the Imperial War Museum (IWM) London, which opened last week after more than six years in the making.

In the Second World War Galleries, designed by RAA, IWM has brought together unseen objects, untold stories and unheard voices, helping visitors to gain a better understanding of this key event in modern history.

IWM WWII galleries house set

A global approach

A recent YouGov poll of British adults, on behalf of IWM, revealed that most age groups, and particularly younger generations, had little knowledge of the global nature of the Second World War. For instance, it showed that less than half of 16-44 year-olds knew that India was part of the allied war effort during the Second World War, and only 58% of 16-24 year-olds knew that Japan was Britain’s enemy.  

IWM Second World War Galleries

With the new galleries, IWM’s aim was to take a global approach to the conflict and show how it impacted people around the world, from London, Russia and New Zealand to the Philippines and China, bringing in the extraordinary stories of ordinary people.

The galleries include more than 1,500 artefacts, some of which are being displayed by IWM for the first time. Stories are told using a full range of modern display techniques, to engage a new generation of museum visitors.

“It has never been more important to learn about the second world war and the Holocaust and to understand this defining period of the 20th century, which dramatically shaped the world we live in today,” says Diane Lees, director-general of the Imperial War Museums.

WWII Galleries IWM RAA

“Though this conflict will soon pass out of living memory, leaving us without the first-hand testimony of its veterans, eyewitnesses and survivors, IWM will ensure that the experiences of those generations are never forgotten through our incredible new galleries, which have been almost seven years in the making.”  

Second World War Galleries now open

Phillip Tefft, Director of RAA London says “RAA has been honoured to work with Imperial War Museums on such a significant project and we are thrilled to see the Second World War Galleries open after years of dedicated work from our design team. RAA’s and IWM’s shared vision for the Galleries 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.”

Battle of the Atlantic IWM

“RAA’s design approach for the Second World War Galleries was led by the idea of ‘Perspectives’,” adds Patrick Swindell, Project Director. “The war was witnessed in different ways by communities and individuals across the world. Our design utilises large-scale media and graphic installations to evoke these multiple perspectives. It’s not a story told by the museum, but rather by those who witnessed the events.”  

IWM and RAA worked on the development of the Second World War Galleries in parallel with new Holocaust Galleries, making clear the connection between the events of the Holocaust and the wider course of the Second World War. Earlier this year, RAA revealed more information about the design of the new galleries.

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charlotte coates

Charlotte Coates

Charlotte Coates is blooloop's editor. She is from Brighton, UK and previously worked as a librarian. She has a strong interest in arts, culture and information and graduated from the University of Sussex with a degree in English Literature. Charlotte can usually be found either with her head in a book or planning her next travel adventure.

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