Stories of the World: London

15 December 2010 - 13 March 2011

As part of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad the Foundling Museum showcased art works by looked after children, care leavers and young people from London. Young people from the boroughs of Kensington and Chelsea, Westminster and Ealing worked with artists to create ceramics, paintings, films, objects, sound and installations.

All of the work in this personal and poignant exhibition was inspired by objects in the Foundling Museum and explores ideas around identity and life in care. Groups of looked after young people have also been involved in an oral history project documenting their experiences of life in and after care in response to recordings and conversations with former Foundling pupils. These stories will contribute towards an archive legacy of life in care past and present.

Identity cups

Looked after young people from the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and young people from London worked with artists Matt Larkinson and Emma Middleton to create cups, saucers and spoons in response to the sheep emblem cups and cutlery that the fgoundling children ate from at the Foundling Hospital. The young people started by looking at the uniformity of the children living at the Foundling Hospital, their lack of individuality and identity, their identical school uniform, the sameness of the sheep emblem cups. The young people’s aim was to create a new set of cups and saucers with emblems and images that expressed their individual identities as teenagers or as young people in care.

Uniform labels

After looking at school uniforms past and present, looked after young people, young asylum seekers in care and care leavers from Westminster analysed the idea of the anonymous school shirt and name label. They discussed ideas around external and internal identity and how the school shirt acts as a form of covering for an internal identity. They discussed how the name label is a form of personal identification for the school shirt, which cannot be seen but is a part of your identity. The young people worked with artist Emma Middleton to create alternative labels of memories of life in school, which they felt expressed their relationships with teachers, parents and carers. The resulting name labels are mix of ‘labels’ the young people felt they were given at school and words that parents, carers and teachers said to them either at school or as they left for school. The shirts have been hung on pegs as if in a school changing room. To read more about the exhibition and see an online gallery click here.

The Foundling Museum's theme of identity is shared with five other London museums and galleries - Brent Museum, Redbridge Museum, the Museum of Croydon, the Horniman Museum and the Courtauld Gallery. All organisations worked with youth and community groups to rethink, rediscover and reinterpret London's world stories and produce work inspired by their collections. To find out more about the Foundling Museum's community and outreach projects click here.

Images: © Foundling Museum

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