The Foundling Museum explores the history of the Foundling Hospital, the UK’s first children’s charity and first public art gallery.
The moving story of the Foundling Hospital (which continues today as the children's charity Coram) and the abandoned children who grew up there is revealed through the artworks, objects and archival documents on display in the Museum.
Artists who donated work to the Foundling Hospital include William Hogarth, Thomas Gainsborough, Joshua Reynolds and John Michael Rysbrack. Paintings, sculpture, furniture and ceramics are displayed in beautiful eighteenth-century interiors, reconstructed from the original Hospital building.
Shown alongside the art are poignant artefacts which reveal the lives of the abandoned children and the desperation of the mothers who gave them up. These include the small everyday objects, or ‘tokens’, left by women with their babies in the eighteenth century, as well as admission records, text books, uniforms, and testimonies from former pupils of the Foundling Hospital School in the twentieth century. Many more testimonies are preserved in the Museum’s extensive online archive, Foundling Voices, which holds the memories of seventy-six former foundlings in audio interview, photographs and film. Tales of family separation, the stigma of illegitimacy, a spartan school education, wartime heroism and the search for birth mothers are all part of this rich social history.
The Museum also holds the Gerald Coke Handel Collection, an internationally-important collection of material relating to composer George Frideric Handel and his contemporaries. The Collection of around 10,000 items includes manuscripts and printed scores, libretti, books, periodicals, programmes, artworks, sound recordings and ephemera. Key items on display include Handel’s will and the manuscript score of Messiah bequeathed to the Hospital.
Are you carrying out research on the Foundling Hospital? If so you might be interested in the Foundling Hospital research forum. The forum is open to all those studying the Foundling Hospital archives in depth, with an aim to facilitate the sharing of knowledge about these archives. Members are academics, independent researchers, authors and historians and include staff from Coram, the Foundling Museum and London Metropolitan Archives. The group meets twice annually. If you are interested in finding out more or joining the group, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Records of former pupils of the Foundling Hospital admitted more than 110 years ago can be found at the London Metropolitan Archives. For enquiries about children admitted less than 110 years ago, please contact Coram at email@example.com.