This week some of the SI team has a bit of a jolly up to IWM North. I hadn’t been before, and the only thing I really knew about it was from a BBC documentary about a chap who abseiled down it. So I was expecting interesting architecture, and the odd feeling of being slightly uncomfortable in the space. Believe it or not war museums do scare me. I had reservations about a space being intentionally confrontational, with a want of making visitors feel ill at ease. But I fell immediately in love with the place. You get lost easily, and are never quite sure where the exit is, or if you have come from the right or the left. I can see how to some this would be the worst museum visit ever. I, however, loved it. The museum is really one wonkily-shaped large central dimly lit room with small ‘silos’ focusing on particular themes. There is a chronology, but it isn’t easy to follow, as you do get lost and distracted. The lighting is low (which is going to be a challenge for implementing QR codes) but this makes it feel more intimate. But the major highlight is the story. At North context is King. It is the story which is the focus, not the artefacts. Cleverly presented fewer artefacts has greater context.
One really impressive part of the visit was the Big Picture Show which happens on the hour, every hour. It stops pretty much every visitor in their tracks. You cant help but be drawn in. As a brief announcement is made, the lights go out and the space is transformed into a 360 cinema with photographs and films being projected onto every wall, and audio being played; all focusing on a central theme. I found the experience to be stunningly effective. It was totally immersive, beautifully made and incredibly well executed. Powerful images and audio are a very important and impressive factor of the show, in particular the room acoustics was a big factor in creating a truly immersive experience, it surrounds the audience and allows them no choice but to listen and take notice. Absolutely mesmerising. The Big Picture Show commands attention. And quite rightly it gets it.