Sunday, 12 February 2012

Once Upon A Wartime

Today we visited Manchester's Imperial War Museum.  The magnificent iconic building is situated on the banks of the Manchester Ship Canal in the Salford Quays area and is an impressive example of 21st century architecture with its free flowing forms and asymmetric geometry. It's a departure from buildings with traditional vertical lines and right angles!  Inside, the building disorientates you with its floor that reflects the curvature of the Earth's surface, but that somehow draws you into the exhibits which are based on the concept of a shattered globe, fragmented by conflict across the years.  It really is impressive.

The main exhibition space is home to a wealth of artefacts, documents, artworks and objects displayed around a timeline from 1914 to the present day.  Highlights include a Harrier Jump Jet, a T34 Russian Tank and a piece of the Twin Towers, which acts as a powerful reminder of the human cost of conflict.

Twin Towers Steelwork
The powerful exhibits focus on the human stories, revealing the people, places, ideas and events behind the conflicts.  We are challenged to look at war from different perspectives, which enriches our understanding of the cause, course and consequences and the impact on human life.

This half term marks the launch of a major new exhibition Once Upon A Wartime which explores five much loved children's books about war.  The interactive and dynamic celebration of storytelling includes special guests, creative activities and performances.  Like the rest of the museum, the exhibition is completely free!

Moving tales of loyalty, separation, excitement, survival and identity are brought to life.  Adults and children can find out about the true events that inspired these powerful stories.  We can climb inside the pages and discover the stories with hands on displays that are both fun and educational.

The five books are Michael Morpurgo's 'War Horse', Nina Bawden's 'Carrie's War', Robert Westall's 'The Machine Gunners', Ian Serrailier's 'The Silver Sword' and Bernard Ashley's 'Little Soldier'.  With books to read, things to handle, hideouts to sit in, tunnels to crawl through and weights to pull, you are immersed in the world of the stories.

The Machine Gunners Fortress
Crawling through the Tunnel.
Hepzibah's Kitchen from Carrie's War
Pulling weights like a War Horse
Reading the Books.
The exhibit is really child friendly.  My older children were familiar with some of the books already, having read them at home or at school.  The exhibits added to their knowledge and fleshed out the words.  Freddy who is two, enjoyed the interactive elements of the displays and had the freedom to run around and explore.

From 1-4pm throughout the holidays the museum has a children's craft and storytelling activity which takes place in the purpose built Learning Studio.  With a range of toys for even the littlest visitors, the activity session is suitable for all ages. It is a fantastic facility for families. My girls enjoyed a story about the experiences of a girl in the Land Army in WW2.  They also made a lovely keepsake book box.  Meanwhile Freddy played with traditional wooden toys.

Craft Activity
Wooden Toys
 To end our visit we went up the Air Shard, a lift that went up to a 29m viewing platform giving great views of the Salford Quays.  Even though it was a foggy day, the view was quite impressive, but the see-through metal grated floor was a bit nerve racking if you have a fear of heights!! (a small fee applies)

The Lift Up The Air Shard
Salford Quays in The Fog
The Imperial War Museum is a great free day out for all ages and is open daily from 10am to 5pm.  The Once Upon a Wartime exhibition is open throughout half term and until September 2nd.

Pay and display car parking is available and there is a lovely restaurant with panoramic views of the quays plus a very well stocked shop selling a selection of books, toys, T-Shirts, posters etc.


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