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In 1917 the Cabinet decided that a National War Museum should be set up to collect and display material relating to the Great War, which was still being fought. The museum was named Imperial War Museum
The museum was opened in the Crystal Palace by King George V on 9 June 1920 before it was moved by in its present home.
The museum was closed to the public from September 1940 to November 1946 and vulnerable collections were evacuated to stores outside London. Most of the exhibits survived the war, but some of the naval models were damaged by the blast.
At the outset of the Second World War the Imperial War Museum's terms of reference were enlarged to cover both world wars and they were again extended in 1953 to include all military operations in which Britain or the Commonwealth have been involved since August 1914.
Today, IWM’s collections cover all aspects of twentieth and twenty-first century conflict involving Britain, the Commonwealth and other former empire countries.
Created to record the toil and sacrifice of every individual affected by war, the collections include a wide range of material, from film and oral history to works of art, large objects, and personal letters and diaries.
The Collections stretch from the everyday to the exceptional. They contain some of the most important technical, social, economic, political, personal and cultural artefacts relating to Britain and its role in twentieth-century conflict. The scale, depth, breadth and range of media – art, film photographs, sound, new media, writings and objects – contain the reactions, memories and stories of the whole of society.