Foundling Voices

14 April 2011 - 30 October 2011, 10:00 - 17:00

Foundling Voices features the experiences of seventy four former foundlings whose memories of their childhoods in the first half of the twentieth century are graphically preserved in audio interviews, 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 exhibition, funded by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, is part of a four-year project to collect and preserve the memories of former pupils, complementing the Foundling Hospital's past and present archives. The exhibition is divided into five themes: Early Life, School Life, Into the World, Search for Birth Families and Reflections, and each one is illustrated with memories and detailed extracts from the foundlings’ personal stories.  The Hospital's former pupils – the youngest is 68 and the oldest 98 – paint a remarkably vivid picture of their lives and times. These unique children were given up for care at birth and spent the first five years of their lives with foster mothers, before starting their education in the care of the Hospital. At the age of 15, they then went into the outside world – often either joining the forces, (for boys) or going into service (for girls). 

Foundling Voices is housed in the Museum’s temporary exhibition gallery and entry to the exhibition is free, although there is an admission charge to the rest of the Museum and its permanent displays. The exhibition is open unil October 30 2011. Explore and hear stories from Foundling Voices in the online exhibition.

Curated by Sarah Lowry and Alison Duke.

Foundling Voices is also touring locations connected to the Foundling story in the south of England. The touring exhibition connects the stories told to the rich local history of its chosen destinations.

First stop on the Foundling Voices exhibition tour is the Lyme Regis Philpot Museum, birthplace of the Foundling Hospital’s campaigning founder and philanthropist Thomas Coram. The exhibition will continue to tour until 2012 to towns and locations which are all significant to the fabric of Foundling Hospital story. Opened in Lyme Regis Philpot Museum the Foundling Voices touring exhibition is currently at Ashlyns School, Berkhamsted until 15 October 2011. It will then visit the following locations before returning to London mid 2012:

Kings Langley Library, Kings Langley: 17 October 2011-20 November 2011, Hemel Hempstead Library, Hemel Hempstead: 21 November 2011-2 January 2012 and Berkhamsted Library, Berkhamsted: 3 January 2012-6 February 2012.


Image: Alice Hatter and Pearl Martley


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