Manchester Museums




The Imperial War
Museum North


Imperial War Museum North
Imperial War Museum North. Aerial
Photograph Image Courtesy of © 2005

Wharf Road, Trafford Park, Manchester M17 1TZ
Tel: 0161-836 4000. Fax: 0161-836 4003.
Education/Group Visits Department Tel: 0161-836 4064.
Catering Manager Tel: 0161-836 4042.
Email: Website:

The Imperial War Museum North across the Manchester Ship CanalImperial War Museum, Salford QuaysImperial War Museum NorthInside the IWMN Air Shard

The Museum

Opened on 5 July
2002, the long awaited IWM North is situated on the banks of the Manchester
Ship Canal
on the Trafford wharfside of Salford
about 2 miles from city centre Manchester. It is located diametrically
opposite the Lowry Centre on the Salford
side, to which it is linked by the dramatic Lowry
across the Ship Canal.
The building is an attraction in itself, and is expected to be visited
by around 400,000 visitors a year. It is an inspired concept of internationally
renowned architect, Daniel Libeskind, who also designed the adjoining
Lowry Footbridge. Polish-born in 1946, and with his main office now
in Berlin, Libeskind overcame severe budget cuts – from �40 million
down to around �28.5 million when the millennium lottery grant failed
to materialise, to produce this masterpiece, the first of only 3 buildings
by the architect. His other two include the Jewish Museum in Berlin
and the Shoah Centre also in Manchester.
The style, typical of Libeskind’s work, has become known as “defragmentation”,
and it departs dramatically from conventional vertical and right angle-built
architecture in its free-flowing forms and asymmetric geometry. The
original plan had called for concrete, the final stainless steel sheet
cladding came as a result of financial constraints. However, Libeskind
rose to the challenge – never one to shirk tough challenges.
The building has joined an ever-growing list of celebrated 21st century
structures appearing around Manchester, and is expected to attract continuing
international interest for designers and students of architecture. It
is a further contributor to the rebirth of Manchester as a world-class
architectural environment and as such is instrumental in shaking off
more than a century of drabness and grime which has long been associated
with the area.

Imperial War Museum North, Salford Quays
Photo © courtesy
of Andrew C Theokas

The Shards

The design concept
is based on the globe, broken into three fragments to depict the shattering
effect of war on the history of the world. These three fragments, or
“shards”, are structurally interlocked to represent world
conflict on land, water and in the air.
The Earth Shard provides the main museum space while the Water Shard
is, naturally, close to the canal itself. The Air Shard, is open to
the elements and has a dominant towering observatory, offering panoramic
views across the Ship Canal and the Manchester city centre skyline.

Exhibitions &

The Museum utilises
many new and innovative modern exhibition design techniques and used
the very latest interactive technologies to enhance the visitor experience,
although, thankfully, there are still some reassuringly conventional
glass cases with memorabilia and exhibits to satisfy the more conservative
visitor, as well as there being occasional free standing artefacts of
war – a field guns, a Russian tank, and a Harrier Jet, among others.
The Museum’s interactive multimedia facilities elevate it from being
merely another dry exhibition space to produce a truly 21st century
centre aimed at bringing the stark realities of war to visitors of all
ages. Libeskind was involved in not only the overall building design
but advised on the disposition of the internal spaces and exhibits.

The museum also has an extensive art collection with paintings and drawings
commissioned during the two World Wars, as well as collections of photographs,
film and other period documentation.

The Big Picture

audio-visual presentation drawn from the Museum’s extensive sound and
image archives, which runs in the main exhibition areas for 15 minutes
every hour. Set on an immense scale, other displays are blacked out
during the presentation, which uses 60 projectors on 20 screens of around
5 metres height. The Big Picture is well worth waiting to see, but beware,
it contains flashing lights and loud sounds which may be problematic
for some visitors or very small children – warning announcements allow
ample opportunities for those who wish it to leave the area.

The Timeline

Timeline forms the main layout of the exhibition, following a broad
historical development and charting the changing balance of world
power through various zones including:

A New Century”
“1914-1918: First World War”
“1919-1939: Between the Wars”
“1939-1945: Second World War”
“1946-1990: Cold War”
“1990-Present: Into a New Century”


exhibition spaces are provided for in so-called “silos”,
which afford opportunities for visiting, temporary or changing exhibitions.
These six partially enclosed tall exhibition spaces, (called “Silos”),
present a range of themes that are central to the history of war and
conflict, including:

of War”
“Women at War”
“Impressions of War”
“Empire, Commonwealth & War”
“Science, Technology & War”
“Legacy of War”


Open daily from 10.00am –
6.00pm from March-October, and closes at 5.00pm from
November-February. The Museum is closed Christmas Eve, Christmas Day
and New Years Day.

Admission & Parking

to the Museum is free, but there is a car parking charge of £4.00
for the whole day. Very little other street parking is available near
the Museum. It is possible, however, to park in the Lowry Designer Outlet
secure car park (paying) opposite across the Ship Canal, and to approach
the Museum on foot by the Lowry Footbridge.


Museum is located about 2 miles from Manchester city centre, on the
south bank of the Manchester Ship Canal, opposite the Lowry Centre,
(from which it can be accessed on foot via the Lowry Footbridge). It
can be easily accessed by Metrolink Trams via the Harbour City Station
or Bus Nos. 250, 291 and 290.


open during public hours, sells souvenirs and memorabilia. Extensive
library of books on war-related topics on sale. Restaurant in the Water
Shard open all day. Ground floor café selling light refreshments
and sandwiches. Accessible throughout to disabled and wheelchair users.
Lifts throughout. Large print guide leaflet available. Disabled Parking.
Toilets. Group visits welcomed but advanced booking preferred – teachers
should contact the Education Department on 0161-836 4064, or via email
at Corporate Hire for dinners, receptions
or dancing – contact the Catering Manager on 0161-836 4042.

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This page last updated 16 Nov 12.