Use this URL to cite or link to this record in EThOS:
Title: A century of reinvention : display policy and practice at the Imperial War Museum, London 1917-2017
Author: Cundy, Alys
ISNI:       0000 0004 5914 6389
Awarding Body: University of Bristol
Current Institution: University of Bristol
Date of Award: 2015
Availability of Full Text:
Full text unavailable from EThOS. Restricted access.
Please contact the current institution’s library for further details.
War museums face the challenge of representing the violence and trauma of conflict through its material remains. This thesis analyses the ways in which the Imperial War Museum (IWM) in London has used its extensive and varied collections to represent warfare, from its foundation up to and including its latest redevelopment. It identifies four phases in the museum's display history. In its first decades the IWM authorities presented the museum's objects as commemorative 'relics'; tangible markers of the First World War and all those who had participated in it. Following the Second World War, the institution revised its remit to include the new conflict and in doing so placed greater value on the informative capacity of its collections. The 1960s saw another fundamental change of purpose as a new Director made historical scholarship central to the institution's displays. In more recent decades a variety of interpretive values have been applied to the museums' collections; with exhibits being represented as sculptural pieces, historical evidence, symbolic markers and 'witnesses to war'. By following the developments in the public exhibitions at the IWM this thesis reveals that, whilst the IWM has reinterpreted its collections multiple times since 1917, these 'reinventions' have been frequently contested. Furthermore, the history of the IWM is marked by notable absences and silences; fissures in an interpretive strategy considered incapable of containing some of the most traumatic associations of the collections. This provides insight into the nature of the material culture of conflict. The history of the IWM shows the meanings of the physical remains of war to be fluid; capable of repeated change according to the priorities and practices of this responsible for them. However, such remains are also powerful signifiers of conflict, and as such are subject to the divisions and controversies associated with war itself.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available