Imperial War Museum London
My visit took place a week after the exhibition opened and it’s clearly already a popular attraction – at times exhibits and the interactive displays had queues forming in front of them.
One of the most remarkable aspects of the exhibition is the sheer creativity of the museum in constantly finding new ways to make the First and Second World Wars relevant to generations increasingly distanced from them.
What with Flemings own range of books, several sets of authorised Bond novels by other authors, the Eon movies, countless ‘making of…’ books, documentaries and biopics one might think there was nothing new to learn about the character or his creator. The designers of this exhibition have set out to prove this assumption wrong and have overwhelmingly succeeded.
Linking the real person and fictional creation has allowed for a detailed examination of how Fleming’s wartime experiences shaped the world of James Bond.
From Fleming’s childhood Christmas stocking to a blood soaked shirt worn by Daniel Craig in Casino Royal to a copy of ‘Devil May Care’ by Sebastian Faulks (due to be published next month) the exhibition covers every aspect of Fleming’s life and the continued success of his creation.
Some of the items displayed have never been seen before including a scale version of the famous Aston Martin DB5 which was made for Prince Andrew and has been loaned by HM The Queen.
Fans of Bond’s cinema adventures will enjoy the chance to see Scaramanga’s Golden Gun and Rosa Kleb’s blade concealing shoes while for those wanting to learn more about Fleming there’s an impressive array of memos and memorabilia from his days at Reuters and Naval Intelligence plus annotated Bond manuscripts and sketches of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
Interactive screens include a ‘book’ which looks at key relationships in Fleming’s life which visitors navigate through by flipping each ‘page’ – a great and entertaining step up from simply pressing ‘next’. Even more impressive is a series of display cases containing real espionage items such as hidden cameras and dead drops, visitors can touch the case above each item to bring up a fact file on it.
With Bond ever popular and always a sure money maker it would have been easy to offer a halfhearted affair which simply re-examined old ground. Instead the organisers have grasped the opportunity of Fleming’s centenary year to provide a detailed, exhaustive and well researched look at one of literature and cinema’s most iconic figures and the man who created him.
Exhibits have been drawn from a range of sources ensuring wide variety and there’s certain to be something to excite, thrill or educate everyone.
There’s an entrance fee for the exhibition but it’s undoubtedly excellent value for money and deserves to be a huge hit plus of course there’s the rest of the museum to explore when you’re finished.
PS: If you can’t get to the exhibition or are looking for a memento of a great day out Bloomsbury have published a tie-in book ‘For Your Eyes Only – Ian Fleming + James Bond’ which continues the look at the entwined lives of Fleming and Bond.