The Foundling Museum opened its doors to the public in 2004. The artworks, objects and archival documents on display have been assembled from the Foundling Hospital Collection, complemented by the Museum’s Collection which includes the Gerald Coke Handel Collection.
The Foundling Hospital Collection is owned by Coram, the adoption and fostering charity which continues the work of the Hospital today. It is made up of the heritage objects and artworks which reflect the unique story of the Foundling Hospital. These were retained through the years in the Hospital buildings and headquarters until 1998, when the charity decided that these items would be best preserved and cared for by establishing a separate museum charity, the Foundling Museum. The Collection is currently in the care of the Foundling Museum.
The Foundling Museum Collection includes objects and artworks from the Foundling Hospital Collection which the Foundling Museum has acquired from Coram. Acquisition is ongoing thanks to the generous support of donors and friends. Further items have been donated, purchased or commissioned to complement the existing Collection, and enhance our telling of the Founding Hospital story. One notable example is the Museum’s Foundling Voices archive which holds the memories of seventy-six former pupils 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 Collection also includes contemporary art which further explores our story and themes, such as Michael Craig-Martin’s Tricycle, Yinka Shonibare MBE’s Trumpet Boy and Tracey Emin’s Baby Things [Mitten]. Many of these pieces have been created by our Foundling Fellows or specially commissioned by the Museum.
The Museum’s Collection also includes the Gerald Coke Handel Collection, an internationally important collection of material relating to composer George Frideric Handel and his contemporaries. The Collection was assembled by Gerald Coke over a period of sixty years and left to the nation by his widow with a wish that it be allocated to the Thomas Coram Foundation in the care of the Handel Institute. It was permanently allocated to the Museum through the Government Acceptance-in-Lieu scheme. The Collection of around 11,000 items includes manuscripts and printed scores, libretti, books, periodicals, programmes, artworks, sound recordings and ephemera. Key items include Handel’s will and letters, along with documents relating to the first performances of Messiah. The endowment accompanying the Collection is managed by the Gerald Coke Handel Foundation. The Gerald Coke Handel Collection also holds the research collection of Handel & Hendrix in London (formerly the Handel House Museum).
The Foundling Hospital Archive, containing documents relating to the administration and organisation of the Foundling Hospital from its beginnings to the twentieth century belong to Coram, and are in the care of the London Metropolitan Archives. A changing selection of documents is lent for display at the Foundling Museum.