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Imperial War Museum North by Libeskind photoGreat Britain has certainly seen its measure of wars, both on the giving and receiving end. And they’re probably hoping not to really see another soon, except maybe for Prince Harry, still itching to be a regular guy at risk with his mates. Upon visiting war museums, one wonders whether their purpose to warn against future wars or celebrate old ones. Well, since England has had it is share of wars, it’s natural she would have an abundance of war museums. The Imperial War Museum system in England consists of five separate exhibit venues. Three are in London, including the original Imperial War Museum near Waterloo, the HMS Belfast war ship docked in the Thames River (see HMS Belfast) and the Churchill Cabinet War Rooms (see Churchill War Rooms). Two others are outside London, one near Cambridge (see Duxford Air Museum), and the other in Manchester.

Russian T34 Tank Manchester photoThe Imperial War Museum North just outside of England’s second largest city is found in a building which gets as much attention as the exhibits inside. Opened in 2002, the exhibit space was the first design of Daniel Libeskind, known for his angular modernism to be built in the British Isles. A sharp edged soaring spire of silver metal rises up like either the tail of a giant warplane or the sail of a ship, depending which century your mind wanders to. Built across the Manchester ship channel from the Manchester United football stadium (see Trafford Manchester United Museum) at the Salford Quays. The building itself is hard to miss, while taking a shopping browse to the Lowry Outlet shopping mall, or a cruise down the Manchester ship channel.

War Exhibits Manchester photoOnce inside the museum provides a bit of a maze through war times. The exhibits at The Imperial War Museum North focus on the wars of the 20th Century and has only a few large war machines on display, a Russian T34 tank, a Harriet Jet and the artillery cannon which fired the first British shell in WWI. If you’re looking for big tanks, planes and guns, they are at the Duxford Airfield museum near Cambridge (see Imperial Air Museum Duxford) and the London branch of the Imperial War Museums on Lambeth Road near Waterloo. The north museum presents the stories and themes of wartimes.

The main exhibition space boasts a 3D timeline of war conflicts from 1900 up to the Falklands with a movie “The Big Picture Show” projected 360 degrees around the space every hour. The museum is designed for a unique experience with themed “silos” presenting different aspects of war through photographs, uniforms, stories, diaries, letters and audio visual presentations. For a “hand-on” experience visitors can handle actual artifacts through a mechanical time stack system where a time or subject is chosen and the trays of objects automatically delivered to explore. Special exhibitions are presented on a rotating basis. For families and kids, the museum has 9 “Action Stations” with interactive games and demonstrations. An observation platform at the top of the spire allows an impressive view of Manchester and the shipping channels.

Visiting Imperial War Museum North

The Imperial War Museum North is open daily and admission is free. The museum is on Trafford Wharf road between the M60 and A57 and can be reached by footbridge across the quays from the Lowry Mall and nearest tram stop. © Bargain Travel Europe

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