IWM’s collection covers all aspects of conflict involving Britain, its former Empire and the Commonwealth, from the First World War to the present day. As well as objects, it includes a range of media, from art, film and, photographs to printed materials , documents and sound.

Everything we hold tells a story about the experiences of men, women and children caught up in conflict - from works by great artists, filmmakers and photographers to aircraft, tanks and firearms, and from intensely personal diaries, letters and keepsakes to pamphlets, posters and proclamations. These are among the most important personal, political, cultural and technological items held by any museum, nationally or internationally. Together, they reveal the experiences of conflict for the people who created, used and cared for them.

The Museum’s own administrative records, dating from our foundation in 1917 are held by the Museum Archive.

IWM supports and encourages research into the collection, which is open to the public by appointment. You can find out more about accessing the collections on our Research Facilities page.

art and design

art and design

IWM's exceptional Art collection is one of the most important representations of twentieth century British art in the world
An unnaturally bright sun blazes over a landscape with a river. There is an aircraft flying over the desert in the lower right of the composition.
Art.IWM ART 4623

books and publications

books and publications

IWM holds a large collection of published material relating to twentieth and twenty-first-century conflict.
Staple bound, feint ruled exercise book containing newspaper cuttings adhered to its pages
LBY K. 74101-1

Documents

Documents

Our documents cover a wealth of personal experience and testimony, both British and foreign, as well as official records.
Second World War Air Raid Precautions gas mask card and three bus tickets bearing the war-time slogan 'Beat the paper hanger be a paper-saver'.
Documents.8848

Exhibits

Exhibits

IWM cares for over 155,000 three-dimensional objects.
Section of twisted and rusted steelwork from the collapsed World Trade Center, New York
EPH 10364.2

Film

Film

Our constantly growing collection now extends to over 23,000 hours of moving images.
Night time scene showing a bombed building on fire in London during the Blitz, 1940.
© IWM (HU 67287)

Photographs

Photographs

IWM currently holds nearly 11 million photographs, covering all aspects of modern conflict from the Crimean War to the present day
A VIEW LOOKING OVER THE CAMERON HIGHLANDS, MALAYA (CIRCA 1950s).
© IWM (TR 6363) Central Office Of Information

Sound archive

Sound archive

The Sound Archive holds over 33,000 recordings relating to conflict since 1914. This consists of the largest oral history collection of its type in the world, with contributions from both service personnel and non-combatants as well as significant holdings of speeches, sound effects, broadcasts, poetry and music.

War Memorials Register

War Memorials Register

The IWM is compiling the War Memorials Register - the comprehensive national register of UK war memorials and the names of the individuals they commemorate.
Richmond War Memorial
Q 48871

Lives of the First World War

Lives of the First World War

IWM’s Lives of the First World War tells the stories of individuals from across Britain and the Commonwealth who served in uniform and worked on the home front. 
Lives of the First World War Promo Image
IWM Q649

American Air Museum

Inside the American Air Museum
©IWM

American Air Museum

From privates to presidents, we hear directly from those men and women whose lives have shaped or been shaped by their experiences of war, from the First World War to the present day.

Find out about the American Air Museum at IWM Duxford

How we care for our collection

The IWM Duxford Conservation Team removing wing bolts
IWM, Conservation in Action IWM Duxford
Conservation at IWM Duxford
At IWM Duxford our team of conservation staff and volunteers are working to safeguard the history of our large museum objects. In our Conservation in Action hangar you can chat to the team about the work they are doing and find out how we protect our objects for future generations to experience and enjoy.
Conservation in action on HMS Belfast
Care and Conservation
The effective care of collections is central to the work of IWM. Collections care is the responsibility of all our staff, but a specialised care team exists to provide support and guidance across the organisation. Proper care ensures the preservation of our unique collections for future generations.
Petty Officer Wren Hilary Wilson at the TARE Control position.
IWM (A 35110)
Digitisation programme
IWM has an ongoing digitisation programme that reflects various priorities. Read more about the items currently undergoing digitisation. 

Collection development

Offer material to the collections
Donated objects are recorded, preserved and cared for to the highest standards. However, this comes at a high cost, forcing us to be selective about what we can now accept into our keeping.
A view of the card index kept at Leytonstone Public Library
IWM (D 22113)
Recent acquisitions
Items in our Collections come from many sources, from artists and members of the public through to government departments and military personnel. They all contribute to the richness and diversity of the Collections and the stories they can tell. They inform people of the causes, course and consequences of conflict from the First World War up to today.
Collections review
In summer 2010 IWM began a five-year Collections Review to assess all its holdings and make strategic plans to develop the Collection.

Museum Archive

WOMEN'S ROYAL NAVAL SERVICE.
IWM A 10763
Museum Administrative Records
The museum archive manages IWM’s own administrative records, which date back to its foundation in 1917. They are public records and researchers may search some of the records online or book an appointment at the IWM London Research Room to consult these records.