I've long been interested in Lawrence's life. When I first visted the IWM in March 1990, I was struck by the fact that virtually nothing on permanent display was devoted to Great Britain's imperial history. The two world wars were the main emphasis. They had imperial aspects, of course, but the European aspects of those two conflicts were the chief focus. There was also a small exhibit devoted to the war in the Falkland islands.
I had been reading about Lawrence at the time, when I was studying in Munich, and so I knew that a portrait of Lawrence painted by James McBey in October 1918, right after Damascus was captured by the British and the Arabs, was in the IWM collection.
Well, I wandered around the entire museum but couldn't find the portrait. There was, however, a post card of it in the gift shop. I showed the card to the cashier, asking whether or not the painting was on display. She said that it wasn't, but that she could send me to someone who could show it to me. I was led through a door and spoke with a man who worked as a curator of some sort. He took me into the storage area and showed me the painting. I noticed that the painting's background is actually blue, although it appears in the photos that I've seen to be brown.
In January 2003 I went to the IWM again, this time to see its exhibit devoted to British poets from the First World War. The museum had been expanded to include a Holocaust exhibit, among other things, but there still wasn't much on the military history of the British empire that didn't relate directly to the two world wars.