A painting of a factory floor filled with workers, some wearing protective masks, at various stages of the glass blowing process. Furnaces light up the lower right of the image. It is an oil paint on canvas. It has a gilded wooden frame with glass.
© IWM Art.IWM ART LD 3685
The Evolution of the Cathode Ray Tube by Mervyn Peake.

Imperial War Museums and Lloyd’s Register Foundation are collaborating on a five-year project to explore how conflict has driven innovation in science and technology, and how this innovation affects safety today on land, at sea, and in the air.

From tiny personal possessions and insignia to enormous aircraft and warships, IWM’s collections span every major British and Commonwealth conflict since 1914.

They provide a rich resource for examining the connection between conflict and innovation in technological development.

If it wasn’t for warfare, would we have much of the science and technology that we take for granted today?

From advances in aviation technology during the Second World War, to modern air travel. From the rescue of downed wartime pilots to modern air sea rescue and air ambulances. Safety equipment at sea, ejector seats, radar, radio and communications technology, the list of wartime innovation goes on.

A woman in wet weather gear sits and writes on a piece of paper.
© IWM TR 303
Women’s Auxiliary Air Force assistant inspects equipment on an RAF Air/Sea Rescue Service boat.

But it’s not just about the gadgets and machines in IWM’s collections, fascinating as they are.

This project also encompasses the social history of technological innovation. From the men and women who developed technology, those who used it in the field, to those who continued to innovate once peace was declared. IWM’s collections include many of the personal stories and voices of those who were there.

IWM is grateful to Lloyd’s Register Foundation for their generous grant for this project, which will allow project curator Rob Rumble to research these collections in detail, unearthing hitherto unknown stories, and making these accessible to the public.

The project began in April 2023.