MuseumMinute

A Real Experience

Some museums take the extra step to really immerse their guests in an experience.

In 2001, I visited the Imperial War Museum in London for the first time. In addition to their amazing permanent and temporary galleries (I often refer to the IWM as my favorite museum–despite the difficult and depressing subject matter), the Museum staff carefully recreated a WWII-era air raid shelter for guests to experience.

Per their website:

The Blitz Experience
The Blitz Experience is a carefully researched reconstruction of an air raid shelter and a blitzed street in 1940.  Appropriate sights, sounds and smells evoke for visitors a sensation of being caught in the bombing of London during the Second World War.

It’s funny, the things that I remember so vividly, even if I didn’t experience them first hand. Here’s what I mean — the Blitz Experience only accommodates about a dozen or so (?) people at a time. You sit, smooshed together on benches in the dark, while, as the IWM website says, we experience the sights, sounds and smells that we would have experienced in real life.

I’ve had the opportunity to experience this twice–once in 2001 and once in 2006.

But, the group that went ahead of me during my first visit included someone special — someone who had lived through the Blitz firsthand. She sat near another person on my trip and once the experience concluded, she said [and I paraphrase, since I wasn’t there and it was 10 years ago]

That was exactly what it was like. They even got the smell right.

Hearing about this comment, even second-hand, has stuck to me like glue for the past decade. I don’t even remember which trip member told me the story (there were 30+ of us in the group), or if they even remember the experience, but I do.

They even got the smell right.

Now that’s a museum experience.

3 thoughts on “A Real Experience

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention A Real Experience | Museum Minute -- Topsy.com

  2. Hello!

    I visited London’s Imperial War Museum last year, but I didn’t see the Blitz exhibit. Sounds (and smells!) like a wonderful museum experience! Here’s a blog post I wrote about my own visit to IWM and reactions– it’s about negative memory and museums.

    http://cultureinperil.blogspot.com/2010/03/remembering-to-remember-at-holocaust.html

    Hope you enjoy!

    Nicholas
    Culture in Peril
    http://www.cultureinperil.com
    Twitter: @cultureinperil

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