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Imperial War Museum

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Imperial War Museum's library and education services under threat

One hundred years after the outbreak of the First World War, the Imperial War Museum is under threat.

The Imperial War Museum’s library gives ordinary people access to research materials on all aspects of British and Commonwealth involvement in conflict since 1914.

The Museum is facing an annual deficit of £4m because of cuts in government funding. It has drawn up proposals to:

  • close its unique library and disperse its collection
  • cut important education services
  • cut 60–80 jobs
  • close the popular ‘Explore History’ facility in London.

Prospect believes the world’s leading authority on conflict will be irreparably damaged by the £4m deficit. It has launched a petition to help ensure that the Imperial War Museum continues to provide for, and encourage, the study and understanding of the history of modern war and ‘wartime experience’.

Sign our petition

We want to help ensure that the Imperial War Museum continues to provide for, and encourage, the study and understanding of the history of modern war and ‘wartime experience'. Please show your support by signing our petition.

It asks the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne MP, and the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Sajid Javid MP, to urgently reverse current and future cuts to the Imperial War Museum's annual operating grant in aid so that it can maintain services and preserve its standing as an international centre for study, research and education.

What is at risk?

The Library

The Museum’s library gives ordinary people access to research materials on all aspects of British and Commonwealth involvement in conflict since 1914. We believe the world's leading authority on conflict will be irreparably damaged by the £4m deficit.

It is a collecting department in its own right and plays a key role in helping IWM staff do their jobs – curating exhibitions, helping to identify and understand artefacts and furthering their own knowledge.

IWM aspires to be a highly-respected authority on its subject matter, but this will be impossible without a library.

Once the Library and its professional staff are gone, the damage will be done. It will be impossible to replace this unique collection of primary and secondary printed materials and the dedicated people who care for them and make them available to the public – remotely or in person.

The Library acquired its first item in April 1917 – a programme for a 'Dick Whittington' pantomime staged by the 85th Field Ambulance in Salonika – and has been a vital part of the Museum ever since.

Research Room

The Research Room, available to all for more in-depth research, will continue to operate but at a reduced level, and without access to library materials.

These materials are vital for providing context to personal papers and interviews and are the most commonly used items in the Research Room.

Education

IWM attracted 433,000 learners in 2013-14 and 256,000 children took part in its on- and off-site education programmes.

School educational visits with on-site teaching sessions led by museum and education professionals to the paying branches at Duxford in Cabridgeshire;  HMS Belfast and the Churchill War Rooms in London are under threat. On some days, more than 1,000 children visit Duxford.

The Museum is justifying the cuts at these original historic sites because of changes to the national curriculum and their ‘narrower exhibition focus’.

Formal education bookings at Duxford are steady and IWM London is already full to capacity.

‘Explore History’ attracted 55,000 visitors in 2013. It is a popular resource open to all, seven days a week, allowing the public to explore IWM’s collections and find out about objects or subjects not on display.

How the museum is funded

IWM was founded in 1917 as a place of study and memorial. Its London museum was refurbished at a cost of £40m and re-opened in July 2014. Demand for its services has never been higher.

The museum is successful in generating its own revenue – less than 50 per cent of its funding comes from the Westminster government, but that income is vital to the organisation's future.

It has faced funding cuts over several years but has not yet suffered the mass redundancies and reorganisations that have occurred in other national museums and galleries. The cuts announced in November 2014 will put the museum’s educational and research functions in danger and experienced professional staff will be forced to leave.

Prospect fears that this is only the start and that further damaging cuts are likely unless there is widespread public support to maintain adequate levels of funding.

Please sign our petition and consider making a donation to IWM highlighting that your donation is a response to Prospect's petition.