From Britain and Europe after the Second World War through to the Cold War and the attack on the World Trade Center in 2001, Peace and Security: 1945 to 2014 uses clusters of objects to explore some key and often controversial episodes of recent history.
The display reveals how conflicts have been fought and communities divided and re-joined in countries such as Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan from 1945 to the present day.
Many of the objects are from the conflicts themselves and some by artists to offer a different perspective. Together they raise questions about how and why we fight – and how we live with war and its unending aftermath.
An atomic age
Standing at the very heart of the museum, and confronting you as you enter this section is the atomic bomb. The death and devastation that this weapon unleashed on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan in 1945 has cast a shadow over the world ever since, changing the way that war is fought, altering the balance of political power, and threatening the existence of all humanity. This troubled world is explored in the rest of the displays.
War on the doorstep
Over the past 40 years Britain has twice faced the challenge of political failure leading to armed conflict on the doorstep of its own communities.
In 1969 there came the disturbing sight of British troops patrolling streets in Northern Ireland. They remained there for some thirty years, struggling to keep order in the face of tension and violence between Catholic Republicans and Protestant Loyalists.
On 2 April 1982 Argentinian forces invaded the Falkland Islands, few Britons even knew that they existed. But the British government under Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher had little hesitation in sending a task force 7,950 miles (12,800km) to the South Atlantic to drive them out.
Artist Linda Kitson became the first woman to accompany British troops to the front line as a war artist and was commissioned by IWM to create an official artistic record. Her drawings, on display in Peace and Security: 1945 to 2014, captured the energy and tension of the conflict.