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"The New National Army Museum " Topic

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Trajanus10 Apr 2017 8:17 a.m. PST

Just come back from my first visit to the NAM since it reopened just over a week ago and I am here to tell you it is indeed the NEW Army Museum.

OK, so it was officially a referb, as it is still in the same building but £23.75 GBP million later, nothing remains of the old establishment except the roof, the walls and some of the exhibits, even then the the whole frontage has been changed.

Now even spending that kind of money you will never please everyone so, this is just my view.

That said, if your idea of a perfect museum is a dark and dismal place staffed by old farts in peaked caps, you can stop reading now!

The new interior is light and spacious, in fact everything the old one was not. The staff are actually welcoming and the cafeteria a joy to sit in, rather than a pokey room used as an afterthought.

The displays are well chosen and bristle with interactive features for all ages and the kids there today on their Easter Holidays were clearly loving every minute, engaging with the exhibits and as far as I could see not one of them was whining about their parents dragging them round as some form of punishment. Neither, were they charging about creating chaos and screaming the place down!

In front of a large wall in one area, a Squad of 6 8 year old "recruits" was being drilled by a virtual RSM with a lot more enthusiasm than I ever remember seeing! :o)

Siborne's Waterloo is back from its make over with the Prussians duly tucked away in the corner, as before, but this time there are a number of interactive consoles that allow top down and close up views of the whole thing, as well as the battle details, so The Duke would not be amused at your ability to zoom in on goings on in Plancenoit!

Also back is poor old Marengo, fresh from his rebuild and looking a lot better than the last time I saw him well as good as a dead horse can look anyway.

The main permanent areas cover the "Soldier" what it has been like to be in the British army over time. The "Army" how it has changed through the years and "Battle" how it has fought through the ages.

Finally, there is the an area called "Society" which reflects on the fact that any Army interacts with the Nation it comes from and this shows the cross over areas on how Britain and the Army have influenced each other through history. Some of that is funny and some of it blunt.

This also reflected in the "Soldier" area, some of which shows that dying and getting physically and mentally damaged, is part of the price the Army has always carried with it.

Over all I thought the concept was both refreshing and brilliantly executed.

Its always hard, if not impossible, to see such change through the eyes of someone who knows nothing about history and military matters but I was left feeling that the new approach would certainly be informative to the unknowing. Although, it can't be denied that there must, just by the laws of available space, actually be less on show. Then of course you have to ask yourself how much of the Empire Bric-a-Brac that inhabited a lot of the old cases really told anyone anything.

Some years ago I visited the Spanish Army Museum and thought how badly the NAM compared. This make over, given the available size of the building, has taken things up too that level and restored my pride in its appearance, and the manner in which it treats the history of the body it honours.

Its still free to all, so even if you go and find it an abomination in the eyes of whoever, all its going to cost is getting there!

Open your mind and have a peek!

DeRuyter Supporting Member of TMP10 Apr 2017 8:34 a.m. PST

I was there just prior to the closing for the referb. Sounds like a well done job. Looks like they kept the time line theme which I thought was a good way to organize the museum. Even before the redo I thought it was worth the tube ride and walk through Chelsea.

Toronto4810 Apr 2017 8:49 a.m. PST

I remember that the "old" NAM had a very good book and gift shop how is the one in the new version ?

Trajanus10 Apr 2017 9:17 a.m. PST

I remember that the "old" NAM had a very good book and gift shop how is the one in the new version ?

I would have to confess I zipped through there, not being accompanied by my grandchildren on this occasion! ;o)

Purely on that observation I would have to issue a mild demerit. Size wise probably larger, content wise possibly a little lower. I noted that there were a couple of staff checking content and positioning in a detailed manner.

I suspect less than two weeks in they are still finding their feet and customer base.

I have to confess to being one of that naughty multitude that looked at the prices in the old shop and found the appeal of Amazon, or elsewhere, too tempting. So possibly not the best person to comment!

Looked to be well attended though.

legatushedlius10 Apr 2017 11:22 a.m. PST

Today's 'interactive displays' are always tomorrows 'out of order' disappointments.

Still, thanks for the heads up as I hadn't realised it had re-opened. I must check it out.

Trajanus10 Apr 2017 11:40 a.m. PST

Here's hoping that won't be the case as they seem to have put a lot of trust in them!

N Drury10 Apr 2017 12:38 p.m. PST

The Royal Hospital Chelsea is next door and has its own small museum.

Red358410 Apr 2017 2:53 p.m. PST

Despite living in London for 30 years I never went to the 'old' NAM. Actually that's not quite true…I did go to an evening reading and book signing event with George McDonald Fraser a few years ago but didn't see any of the museum.

I'll definitely need to arrange a day out once the Easter school holidays have safely passed by.

Red358410 Apr 2017 2:54 p.m. PST

Interesting…the last sentence of my previous post is in tiny letters…how strange!

Red358411 Apr 2017 12:05 a.m. PST

And now it's back to normal, making my second post sound weird….

Trajanus11 Apr 2017 4:32 a.m. PST

Forgot to say yesterday that anyone who has been to the Imperial War Museum since its make over a few years ago and didn't like it the NAM changes are superior by an order of magnitude.

I wasn't convinced by the Imp War myself but the NAM had a better space to work with and made the best of it.

Reactionary11 Apr 2017 5:07 a.m. PST

Thanks Trajanus, I was worried that it was going to be all wizz bang interactives for mental defectives, but looks like its going to worth a visit. By the way, the online NAM print ordering service looks fantastic.

John Treadaway11 Apr 2017 9:34 a.m. PST

As others have said, thanks very much for doing the recce Trajanus.

John T

foxweasel11 Apr 2017 10:29 a.m. PST

I'm going to visit the day before Salute, got to make the most of a trip to London, British museum the day after.

Bellbottom11 Apr 2017 4:01 p.m. PST

Foxweasel, if you get the chance make a visit to the Chelsea Pensioners Museum in the Royal Hospital, next door to the NAM. You won't be disappointed. Best collection of helmet plates/cap badges I've ever seen, all in all an excellent little museum.

christot12 Apr 2017 1:58 a.m. PST

The Guards museum on Birdcage walk is also not too far, a bit of a gem, small, but packed with good stuff.

Trajanus12 Apr 2017 6:08 a.m. PST

The Guards Museum is indeed excellent.

One point to note, its Foot Guards only, the Household Cavalry has its own premises on Horse Guards Parade which is also worth a view.

There's a glass wall between it and the stable for the mounted guard in Whitehall so you can the duty horses coming and going.

Supercilius Maximus13 Apr 2017 12:56 a.m. PST

Trajanus – Thanks for your hard work/sharing your experience; as a former part-time lecturer at NAM and frequent user of the old Reading Room, I was, like others, concerned it would go the way of the new "let's not offend anyone" IWM, but it would appear that they have avoided that.

Incidentally, does the new IWM still cover the Boer War (which was part of the reason for the museum's name, originally)?

Trajanus13 Apr 2017 8:50 a.m. PST

Our London museum tells the stories of people's experiences of modern war from WW1 to conflicts today

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