August 17, 2018

Museum Review - International Museum of World War II, Boston

In 2018, I went to visit my sister, who had a summer internship in Boston. On my first day there, we met up in Natick,1 and visited the International Museum of World War II. It was an enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours for us both, and she's way less into this stuff than I am.

They had a model of New Jersey, even if not of Iowa2
Type: Museum of WWII artifacts
Location: Natick, Massachusetts
Rating: 4/5, Worth including on a trip to Boston
Price: $25 for normal adults


A cross-section of an AP shell

The International Museum of World War II is basically the collection of Kenneth Rendell, an internationally-known expert on documents and forgery, who also has a massive collection of WWII artifacts. The operating hours are fairly limited (it's open Fridays and Saturdays, and some Thursdays during the summer) and they make you sign a waiver before they let you in. But it's a good thing. They have several thousand artifacts, including everything from uniforms to weapons to vehicles to a bunch of documents to a Higgins Boat out back. Propaganda posters cover the walls, and everywhere there are weird one-off objects.

Sister Bean with a Sherman

Sister Bean and I were both reasonably familiar with the broad outline of WWII, and the museum did a really good job of showing fragments of that, with enough context to put them into perspective. I wouldn't necessarily take someone who didn't have some familiarity with WWII, as it probably wouldn't make sense to them. But seeing things like a bust of Hitler that Patton used as a doorstop, or a Sherman that served in North Africa, or a plotting table that was used during the Battle of Britain, when you know what those are already? Really cool.

A plotting table from the Battle of Britain

I also very much liked the fact that the collection wasn't confined to the normal sort of items you see in museums, with lots of weird and eccentric stuff. Leaflet rounds for a 105 mm howitzer. Giant cutaway training guns. Torpedo fuses. Ultimately, it was more like wandering through a private collection of WWII memorabilia than a typical museum. (A good thing if, like me, you've been to lots of typical museums.) Lots of stuff was totally exposed, although they requested it not be touched.

The object in front belonged to Adolf Hitler. Any guesses as to what it is?

I will say that the collection was a little weak on naval matters, and there was a definite German focus, but it wasn't even remotely verging on Wehrabooism. Overall, I'd go if you get a chance.

1 Also home to the very interesting Natick Labs.

2 This picture, the Sherman, and the plotting table are Sister Bean's, the other two are mine.


  1. August 19, 2018bean said...

    For anyone who's curious, the thing in the last photo, in front of the hand mirror, was Hitler's zhfgnpur genvare (rot13).

  2. August 22, 2018ADifferentAnonymous said...

    Okay, I was never going to guess that, and that's a hell of an artifact.

  3. August 22, 2018Graham said...

    Ah, that's a shame about touching things! When I went last went (god, more than ten years ago now), it was appointment only - and free - but you were actually allowed, if not encouraged, to handle almost everything! I have fond memories of sliding clips in and out of an MP40 and PPSh-41, and fiddling with a Garand, among other small arms. But glad they're making it a little more accessible at least (and allowing photos - those were almost entirely verboten when I went).

  4. August 22, 2018bean said...

    They did ask us not to take photos in the "Rise of Nazism" and Holocaust rooms. And maybe one more that I can't remember now. Which is why there's no photo of Patton's doorstop. It would have been cool to handle things, but overall, it was enjoyable.

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