London: Imperial War Museum, Westminster Abbey, Tate Britain

Today is my last full day in London for a while. Although, I will spend another day and a bit here before my flight back home. Today, I visited the Imperial War Museum, Westminster Abbey, and Tate Britain (not to be confused with Tate Modern).

Imperial War Museum

Imperial War Museum
Imperial War Museum

If you’ve been following along, you might recognize the building to the right. It also appeared in the pictures I posted from my aimless wandering during my first (half) day in London. At the time, I didn’t realize it was the Imperial War Museum.

Because of the big guns in front, I figured it had something to do with the military and/or war. Either that or it was a manifestation of one of the fiercest feuds between neighbours ever. “I’ll teach you to let your dog crap on my lawn! Boom! Boom!” (By the way, the guns point squarely at some nice, white townhomes directly across the street. So, maybe.)

Had I bothered to read the sign while wandering around, I would have known it was the Imperial War Museum, which is among the top-rated sites in the tour book I’m using. But I didn’t.

I place this picture of a poster at the Imperial War Museum here without any comment as to whether "Wake up America. Civilization calls every man, woman and child." has any relevance today in the current Trumpian American political context. No comment whatsoever.
I place this picture of a poster at the Imperial War Museum here without any comment as to whether “Wake up America. Civilization calls every man, woman and child.” has any relevance today in the current Trumpian American political context. No comment whatsoever.

The museum was very well curated and laid out. And the exhibits were engaging and informative. The displays included artifacts, descriptive placards, graphics, videos, and interactive technologies.

On the lowest floor, a string of rooms presented the conflicts and alliances that led to the First World War, the conduct of the war, and how, after the war, lives and the world changed because of it.

The level above did much the same for the Second World War. On other levels, there were galleries devoted to the Holocaust, war medals, and peace and conflicts from the end of World War II to today. Artifacts in the latter gallery included a section of the Berlin Wall and a window frame twisted beyond recognition that came from the north tower of the World Trade Center.

Yet another gallery presented an exhibit (I think temporary) on the protection, preservation and restoration—and sometimes irrecoverable loss—of art and cultural works during wars and other conflicts.

Westminster Abbey

Westminister Abbey
Westminister Abbey

I took a couple of pictures just as I entered Westminster Abbey before seeing the first of many discrete signs sporting “no photography” icons, and hearing the same prohibition mentioned on the included audio/visual guide. Oops.

Therefore, those are the only two pictures I took inside the Abbey. They’re below. Don’t tell anyone I kept them. It’ll be our secret on the worldwide web. On the web. Oops.

The exit from Westminster Abbey is through some peaceful, but not particularly outstanding cloisters and past a garden or two. Photos were allowed there. So, I posted a couple of those as well.

There is a £22 adult entry fee to Westminster Abbey. But it’s only £20 if you, like me, are already undergoing that near-death experience known as being a senior citizen. After paying that much money, you’d think they’d let you take photos. I mean, what if your friends and relatives want to satisfy themselves with just looking at your pictures rather than paying the exorbitant admission fee to see it for themselves? Oh, right. I get it. Never mind.

Big, beautiful, etc.

So, the Westminster Abbey. What can I say? Big. Beautiful. Soaring vaulted ceilings. A few beautiful stained glass windows. A few other beautiful decorative arts. Rich-looking, dark, wood quire seats (yes, they spell it “quire“), including ones reserved for each high commissioner of the Commonwealth countries. Lots of dead people. And probably even more live tourists.

Westminster Abbey is the final resting place of a great many famous and/or purportedly noble people; or, at least, the final resting place of their remains. Those are the dead people I mentioned above, not, thankfully, the living tourists. But you likely figured that out all by yourself, didn’t you?

Some bodies are buried under the floor. Some are in tombs resting on the floor. Many of the interred are historically historic. The entombed remains include those of kings, queens, princes, princesses, dukes, earls and probably some lesser royals I’m not aware of. The church holds the remains of some non-royal notables as well, including Isaac Newton, Charles Dickens, and David Livingstone. 

Tate Britain

As the name suggests, the Tate Britain art gallery displays mostly British artwork. Although, a ticketed special exhibition that I didn’t visit pushed that to explore “Van Gogh and Britain.”

The Tate Britain gallery is small enough that, had I not been exhausted from a long day and from plowing through the ridiculously intense heat to get there, my eyes might not have glazed over before I finished going through the gallery. But I had. And they did.

The permanent collection includes paintings and sculptures ranging from the sixteenth century to modern times. Some of the more modern pieces would feel perfectly at home in the Tate Modern in terms of both chronology and style.

Along with the works of (according to the website) literally thousands of other artists, the permanent exhibition includes large Henry Moore and JMW Turner collections.

When I was there, in the centre of the gallery, a series of contiguous spaces contained a wide variety of big, hulking, old industrial equipment. They were neither adorned, nor twisted into abstract modern art shapes. They were just there in their original industrial forms. Don’t ask me why. They didn’t do anything. They just sat there.

I think it was a temporary exhibit.

A few sights along the way


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