Now, I’m not usually one to tell you what you should or shouldn’t do or where you should or shouldn’t visit. When I tell you about our days out it’s just to give you an idea of what we got up to and the fun we had so that you might fancy a trip there too. I am going to make an exception here and insist. Yes insist that you go and visit the Imperial War Museum North.
We had never been before, it’s somewhere that was on my radar of places to go but it didn’t really appeal to me as something that might be suitable for my just turned 7-year-old. The baby, he’s easily entertained being pushed round in his buggy with a rich tea for a treat.
Oh how wrong I was.
Last weekend we were kindly invited to have a good old nosy at the new Horrible Histories, Blitzed Britain exhibition. The munchkin was very excited, although we’d not really ever gone into too much detail about World War 2 with her and she’s only ever looked at Horrible Histories at school.
The exhibition is fantastic. Rattus Rattus, of Horrible Histories fame, leads you on a journey through what it was like to live during the Blitz, which is German for lightening don’t you know (Mr C and I didn’t!) There is a Survival Guide that takes you through the exhibition, each page refers to a different section, there are questions, spaces to draw what you’ve seen and letters to collect and scramble (you get a free juice if you collect all the letters). It doesn’t matter if you don’t follow them in number order (we didn’t) and each page reinforces the main learning point, yes be prepared for you and the kids to learn things (unless you are WW2 experts)
It’s very interactive, there are buttons to press, things to listen to, touch screens to play mini games on, videos and clips to watch, things to smell, things to read. It’s bright, colourful considering the subject and informative in a way that children can understand.
In the kitchen we found out about rationing and what people could and couldn’t have. The sniff saucepans give an idea of typical concoctions people would eat. The touch screens get you to fry yourself a tasty dish with limited ingredients, including a bar of soap and a very cute hedgehog.
In the garden we learnt how people were encouraged to grow their own vegetables, and feed your left overs to pigs. There is a short film all about it (about 2 minutes) projected onto a giant pair of bloomers hanging on a washing line. The munchkin had a chance to see if she could cycle as quick as a pigeon flew to give messages, she couldn’t, those pigeons are fast! She thought peeking at the little boy in the outside loo was hilarious!
We found out about black outs and spotted obstacles in a blacked out street with a UV torch. There is also a great touch screen game where you have to tap on the hazards in a blackout. The munchkin was not happy until she could beat her daddy’s score!
We stood in an Anderson shelter, I hadn’t realised how small they were and we found out what happened during an air raid.
The munchkins favourite bit was finding out about being an evacuee, learning about why children were evacuated and where to. She enjoyed listening to real life stories through the ‘phones’ (which were also in other parts of the exhibition) and reading the letters some children might have sent home. She also enjoyed milking the cow, who had been painted with stripes (you find out the reason why) and dressing up as an evacuee, there was a whole dress up area with different outfits to try.
There is a great section on the Dads army, jobs you could do during the war and about jobs animals did too. You even get to test how steady your hands are to defuse a bomb.
At the end you had the opportunity to test your knowledge and draw or write what you had learnt about the blitz to ‘rebuild’ a wall, a very symbolic and fitting end to the exhibition.
Lots of the information, video clips, sound clips and artefacts in the exhibition tell the story of how Manchester and the North West was affected during the Blitz which really bought the information to life. There was so much to see, I’ve really not even scratched the surface with the things to do, to read, the facts and the details in each area, I’ll leave that for you to discover when you go.
We had a great day, there was lots of other things we got up to at the museum, so much I’m going to save it for another post. We will definitely be going back over the summer holidays. The museum and the exhibition, which will run until next year, are free with donations welcome. I really can’t recommend it enough.
For more information why not visit the Imperial War Museum North website
No payment was received for this post, all words and opinions are own