Since its foundation in 1917 IWM has been building its collections in order to illustrate and record all aspects of conflict in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. We want our collections to continue to engage, challenge and remain relevant to our audiences, and we need to safeguard it for future generations.

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 artfilm and photographs to printed materials, documents and sound.

Conservation and Collections Care

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.
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.
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.
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.
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.

Accessing our collection

Collections online
Explore around 800,000 items that tell the story of modern war and conflict, collected by the museum since 1917.
Collection Research Facilities
At Imperial War Museums, we aim to provide the widest possible access to our outstanding collection, be that printed material, documents, sound, film, photographs or works of art. Details relating to our holdings can be found at our website's Collections Search facility, so do look here first. It will ensure you get the most from your planned visit.
Gassed by John Singer Sergeant
© IWM (Art.IWM ART 1460)
Loans programme
Our loans programme is one of the ways IWM shares its collections, knowledge and skills with organisations worldwide. IWM lends material from its exceptional collections to museums across the UK and abroad.