Behind the glass

Gary Oldman during research for Darkest Hour. Curator consultancy Imperial War Museums

Jenni Letherby, IWM’s Business Development Manager, has an in-depth knowledge of the Churchill War Rooms having delivered tours there since 2009. When Focus films approached IWM about a film they were making about Churchill’s ‘Darkest Hour’, she was a natural fit to act as an advisor on the project.

Jenni led historical ‘behind the glass’ tours at the War Rooms for senior crew members including the director, Joe Wright, leading actors and members of the art department. She also acted as an advisor, both in person and over the phone, on different elements of the production to ensure historical accuracy and attended meetings at their production offices.

Attention to Detail

The Cabinet Room at Churchill War Rooms

As a protected historical site, film companies are not permitted to make any changes to the interior of the site, and artefacts are not be allowed to be moved. The Focus films crew therefore had regular contact with IWM in order to meticulously recreate the War Rooms in a studio. ‘Being able to create this level of fine detail was something that the film company relished’, said Phil Reed OBE, former Director of CWR.

Phil Reed was involved in the project as principle historic advisor. As well as working with the creative team on set, he also advised on the script and other items of historical accuracy. Whilst the production utilised a certain amount of artistic license such as Churchill taking the tube and King George VI and Mrs Churchill listening to Churchill’s speech to the House at home, IWM’s involvement led to a richer film experience and meant errors, such as a Russian campaign map being on the wall in the war rooms, being corrected.

‘IWM is rightly proud of its commitment to factual authenticity and has a wealth of experts in a range of historical topics within its curatorial team as well as three incredibly well preserved historical sites.’ - Phil Reed

Darkest Hour was released in 2017 and went on to win two Academy Awards and two BAFTAs, fuelling a surge of interest in the wartime Prime Minister and the Churchill War Rooms.

More information about IWM’s Curator Consultancy service can be found here where enquiries can be made through the online form, or sent to [email protected].