Fate, Hope and Charity – Foundling Museum 2
Since I discovered the Foundling Museum a year ago, I have been to several of their special exhibitions: Quentin Blake – As Large as Life, The Triumph of Pleasure, Vauxhall Gardens 1729 – 1786, Received, a Blank Child: Dickens, Brownlow and the Foundling Hospital and now Fate, Hope and Charity. They are what I call bite-sized exhibitions. You can look round them in an hour or less and, because there isn’t an overwhelming amount of material, you have the opportunity to really spend time with each exhibit, carefully reading the labels and wondering about people who died long ago, giving them an importance they may never have had in their lifetime.
The excellent podcasts by the Londonist with N Quentin Woolf bring the exhibitions to life with interviews with the Curator of the exhibition and usually a researcher and expert on the subject. They draw you in so you feel you need to visit.
The current exhibition, Fate, Hope and Charity, runs until 19th May 2013 and tells the stories behind some of the tokens, ranging from a hazelnut shell to a coral necklace, which were left with the children, in the hope that they could be collected at a later date. The six panels give you insights into some of the children and their parents. They tell you why they were brought to the Foundling Hospital and whether their parent (usually their mother) came back to fetch them. You learn whether they went on to be apprenticed or whether they died soon after admission or maybe years later. The researchers have been working really hard to try and match the tokens with the children’s records. This is an on-going process and must be fascinating as well as heart-breaking.
As a mother, I cannot begin to imagine what it would be like to have been forced to give up your child and it was almost unbearable to read of the number of times women returned, full of hope and expectation, to collect their child, only to discover they had died.
I also explored the rest of the Museum. More of that later.