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Their Past, Your Future

26 July – 4 September 2005

World Museum


The Second World War changed the people and landscape of the United Kingdom forever. The contribution of ordinary people was crucial in safeguarding the nation for future generations. Their Past, Your Future is a travelling exhibition that brings that reality home and keeps alive some very special and unique memories.

The exhibition uses images, objects, timelines and fascinating statistics to unravel personal tales of loss, courage, compassion and determination, but also of conscience. These are the real stories of everyday people living in extraordinary times.

Photograph of damage caused by the blitz over Birkenhead

Birkenhead © Imperial War Museum

  • Beryl Myatt. Killed age 9 when the ship evacuating her to Canada with 89 other children was torpedoed.
  • Mary Harrison. Wrote poems about her work for the Royal Air Force: 'Do you know what its like to have death in your hands, When you haven’t a murderer’s mind?'
  • Kenneth Muir. He survived the D-Day landings and the capture of Caen in France, but was killed in action when his vehicle hit a landmine in 1945.
  • Leonard Cheshire. RAF war hero who founded the disability care charity. After seeing the atom bomb drop on Nagasaki he became a member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

The exhibition also looks at the impact of the war at a local level. There are images of bomb damage in the North West, as well as aerial pictures and maps taken by the German Luftwaffe with primary targets marked out in red ink. During the heaviest raids of the Blitz:

  • 1957 tons of bombs were dropped on Liverpool in 8 raids
  • 578 tons of bombs were dropped on Manchester in 3 raids

The museum itself was a casualty of war. When a 500lb bomb gutted nearby Central Library, the fire spread destroying part of the building and many artefacts. It was rebuilt and reopened in 1966.

Photograph of the gutted upper horseshoe gallery

Fire damage in the museum's upper horseshoe gallery

Sixty years after the end of the war, the conflict lives on in people’s memories and family histories. It is reflected in the UK’s rebuilt city centres and ‘new towns’, and in our education, social and health services. Did you know that:

  • 1 in 5 people in the UK today lived through the Second World War
  • 34 million changes of address took place during the war
  • Almost 1 in 3 houses in the UK were damaged by bombing
  • Nearly every community in the UK has a war memorial

Visitors to the exhibition at the new World Museum will be encouraged to reminisce about the war and write down their experiences on the forms provided.

Informal sessions exploring themes such as A Woman's Life, Family and Work  will be running every Friday from 5th August - 2nd September. Drop-in anytime between 10.30am and 1.30pm . There is also a trail around World Museum, which identifies some of the objects damaged in the May 1941 blitz.

Their Past Your Future is an Imperial War Museum touring exhibition supported by the Big Lottery Fund. For more information visit the Their Past Your Future website

Imperial War Museum Logo Museums, Libraries and Archives Council Logo Their Past Your Future 1945 - 2005 Logo Big Lottery Fund Logo