New galleries dedicated to exploring the history of World War I will open – along with the rest of the refurbished building – at the Imperial War Museum in Lambeth on Saturday. The First World War Galleries span 14 areas displaying everything from shell fragments and lucky charms carried by soldiers to weapons and uniforms, diaries and letters, photographs, art and film. Interactive displays include ‘Life at the Front’ featuring a recreated trench with a Sopwith Camel plane and Mark V tank, and ‘Feeding the Front’ featuring an interactive table of more than four metres long which looks how troops were kept fed. There are also reflective areas in which visitors are encouraged to reflect on some of the most difficult aspects of war. The museum – which features a dramatic new atrium – is also launching the largest exhibition and first major retrospective of British World War I art for almost 100 years. Truth and Memory includes works by some of the UK’s most important artists. Entry to both is free with Truth and Memory running until 8th March. For more, see www.iwm.org.uk.

London’s memorials to those who died in World War I are the focus of a new exhibition which opened at Wellington Arch near Hyde Park Corner yesterday. The English Heritage exhibition, which has a particular focus on the six memorials cared for by English Heritage but also looks at other memorials, will include designs, statuettes and photographs of the memorials including the Cenotaph in Whitehall. Also featured in We Will Remember Them: London’s Great War Memorials are official documents – including a note of condolence and medals certificates – received by the family of author and broadcaster Jeremy Paxman on the death of his great uncle Private Charles Dickson, who died at Gallipoli in 1915. Runs until 30th November. Admission charge applies. For more see www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/wellington-arch/. Meanwhile, coinciding with the opening of the exhibition has been news that five of London’s key war memorials – including the Edith Cavell Memorial in St Martin’s Place and the Royal Artillery Memorial at Hyde Park Corner – have had their heritage listing upgraded.

In case you missed it, the 24th annual Festival of Archaeology kicked off last weekend and features a range of events across London. Highlights include the chance again to go ‘mudlarking’ on the Thames river bank below the Tower of London and have your finds assessed by archaeologists (this Saturday and Sunday from 11am to 4pm), guided 90 minute walks around Islington and Highbury this weekend with a particular focus on the 1940s, and a look behind the scenes at the London Metropolitan Archives (2pm to 5pm today). The festival continues until 27th July. Check the website for a full program of events – www.archaeologyfestival.org.uk.

Life as an inmate inside a Victorian workhouse is explored in an exhibition at the Florence Nightingale Museum in Lambeth Palace Road. The exhibition, Workhouse – Segregated Lives, examines the design of the workhouses as well as the inmate’s diet, work and health while living there. Rare artefacts, firsthand accounts, pictorial representations and publications will all help to bring to life the “world of the workhouse” in this display which opened in February and runs until 5th July. There’s a program of events accompanying the exhibition including lectures by historians looking at subjects like the food served in the workhouse and how to find your workhouse ancestors. Admission charges apply. For more, see www.florence-nightingale.co.uk.

The Salter Statues campaign is appealing for funds for a new statue of former Bermondsey resident Dr Albert Salter after a famous statue of the doctor, known for his work with the area’s poor in the early part of the 20th century, was stolen from its location on Bermondsey Wall in 2011. A fundraising campaign has so far raised more than £16,000 with Southwark Council matching all donations made but £100,000 is needed. As well as a replacement statue of Dr Salter, the funds will also be used to buy a new statue of his wife, Ada, who was the first female Labour councillor in London. The new statues have been designed by artist Diane Gorvin, sculptor of the original group of statues which were erected in 1991 and, as well as the seated statue of Dr Salter, also included the couple’s daughter Joyce – who died aged eight of scarlet fever – and her cat (the statues of Joyce and her cat were removed after the theft and are being held in safekeeping). Donations can be made via www.salterstatues.co.uk.

The community of a residential complex at the former Arsenal football stadium in North London – Highbury Stadium Square – comes under examination in a new exhibition running at the Geffrye Museum in Hoxton. Photographer Simone Novotny, who is a resident of the complex herself, looks at the lives and stories of residents in 30 of the 700 new homes in a series of intimate portraits. Runs until 26th August. Admission charge applies. See www.geffrye-museum.org.uk for more.

On Now: Saloua Raouda Choucair. This exhibition at the Tate Modern on South Bank is the first major museum exhibition of the works of Lebanese artist Saloua Raouda Choucair and consists of more than 120 works – many of which have never been seen before – including paintings, sculptures and other objects. The Beirut-born artist, now aged 97-years-old, is credited as being a pioneer of abstract art in the Middle East and her works reflect her diverse interests in science, maths, Islamic art and poetry. Works in display include sculptures in wood, metal, stone and fibreglass (1950s-1980s) as well as early paintings including Self-Portrait (1943) and Paris-Beirut (1948). Runs until 20th October. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.tate.org.uk.

We took a break from our Wednesday special looking at 10 historic sporting events in London but today we resume with a look at the 1948 Olympics.

The first Games held in 12 years due to outbreak of World War II, the XIV Olympiad were known as the “Austerity Games” due to the post-war rationing and economic climate. Britain had been named as host of the 1944 Games in June 1939 but following its cancellation, it was suggested as a venue for the 1948 and in 1946 was duly awarded them over other cities including a Lausanne in Switzerland and a number of US cities such as Los Angeles.

In so doing, London became the second city to host the Games twice (Paris had already done so in 1900 and 1924). Interestingly, when it hosts this year’s Games, London will become the first city to do so.

Due to the economic climate, no new venues were constructed for the Games and the athletes were accommodated in existing properties – RAF camps and London colleges – rather than a purpose-built Olympic village. The key venue was the Wembley Empire Exhibition Grounds – the opening ceremony (King George VI officially opened the Games), closing ceremony, athletics and football and hockey finals were all held in Wembley Stadium (pictured above as it is today – we’ll be looking at the “home of British football” in more detail in a later post) while fencing was held in the Palace of Engineering and swimming, diving and water polo at the Empire Pool.

Other London venues included Empress Hall at Earls Court for boxing, weightlifting and gymnastics, the Harringay Arena in north London for basketball and wrestling, the Herne Hill Velodrome for cycling and numerous football and hockey grounds including Arsenal Stadium in Highbury.

More than 4,000 athletes including 390 women took part in 136 events (Japan, Germany and the USSR were not represented while other countries such as Burma, Syria and Venezuela, were among the record-making 59 nations for the first time).

Memorable moments at the Games, which ran from late July into August, included 17-year-old Bob Mathias’ win in the decathlon only four months after taking up the sport (he remains the youngest man to win a men’s athletics event) and that of Dutch woman Fanny Blankers-Koen, the ‘flying housewife’, who won four gold medals in running events.

The Games were also notable for being the first to be shown on household televisions (although few people would have watched the Games this way), for introducing starting blocks for sprinters and for the use of the first covered pool – the Empire Pool at Wembley.

In a sign of things to come, the US won the most medals (84) followed by Sweden (44), and France (29). Great Britain came 12th with 23.

For more, check out the official Olympic website – www.olympic.org/london-1948-summer-olympics.

For more on Olympics history, check out London Olympics, 1908 and 1948.

PICTURE:  Courtesy of Wembley Stadium