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.

Building our collections

A group of Imperial War Museum staff inspect frames stacked against a wall, while remounting the museum's displays in South Kensington in 1924
© IWM (Q 36914)

Donate an Object to IWM

IWM welcomes gifts of historic material. Public generosity has helped to grow IWM's collections since our foundation in 1917.

An IWM curator examines a book from the collection

Collections departments

IWM's unparalleled and unique collections stretch from the everyday to the exceptional. They contain some of the most important objects relating to Britain and its role in conflict since the First World War.

Close up of Yamaha electric keyboard damaged by ISIS militants c.2014.
©IWM (EPH 11788)

Recently collected objects

Find out more about some of the objects IWM has recently added to its collections. 

IWM's Collections Development Policy outlines the type of material IWM accepts into our collections, and our areas of focus for shaping them.


IWM’s Project Conservator treating a SWW flying helmet in the conservation lab

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.

Conserving the Handley Page Victor XH648

Conservation Engineering

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.

A volunteer conservator dismantles a 4” gun.

Warship Conservation

HMS Belfast joined the Imperial War Museums collection in 1978, becoming a museum and also the largest item in our collection. As both a historical object and museum its needs are unique and it requires constant conservation work.

Collection development

Afghanistan - War Story Collection

Developing our collections information

IWM has been collecting for over 100 years. Our collection of over 33 million items tells the stories of how war and modern conflict has impacted people.

Looking back at what we have collected we realise our collection, and how we talk about it, isn’t as representative as we’d like it to be. We are working to change that. Find out more about our collection and our policies.

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. 

A side on view of a line of soldiers being led along a duckboard by a medical orderly. Their eyes are bandaged as a result of exposure to gas and each man holds on to the shoulder of the man in front.
© IWM (Art.IWM ART 1460)

IWM 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.