Fate, Hope & Charity

25 January 2013 - 19 May 2013, 10:00 - 17:00

Free with Museum admission. Booking not required.

Tokens, small everyday objects, were left by mothers with their babies at the Foundling Hospital, which continues today as children’s charity Coram, between c.1741-1760. These tokens, which include coins, jewellery, buttons, poems, playing cards and a simple nut, were a means of identification should the mother ever return to reclaim her child. Hundreds of these small items were removed from the Foundling Hospital’s admission records in the 1860s, severing links with their history – until now.

Now, over 250 years later, Fate, Hope & Charity reunites the tokens with the foundlings to whom they belonged, bringing to light untold stories that are testaments to the grief of separation and the timeless bond between a mother and child. Each heart-wrenching story offers a glimpse into the lives of ordinary women in the eighteenth century. The accounts reveal fascinating information about the tokens themselves, the circumstances surrounding the mother’s decision to give up her baby and the moving stories of the individual foundlings to whom the tokens belonged.



Selected stories will be told through their tokens, together with art works and artefacts from the period. Fate, Hope & Charity is accompanied by a newly commissioned publication exploring the tokens and their stories with contributions from the artist David Shrigley, poet and novelist Jackie Kay and the DJ, poet and writer Charlie Dark.

This exhibition follows in the footsteps of the Museum's internationally successful 2010/11 exhibition, Threads of Feeling.

Fate, Hope & Charity was researched by Janette Bright and Dr Gill Clark and curated by Stephanie Chapman. For discounted group bookings and guided tours please click here.

Affecting without being over-sentimental, ‘Fate, Hope and Charity’ is an absorbing anthropological study. London’s forgotten ‘folk art’ demonstrates our deep-rooted fascination with symbols and reveals an engagement with material culture by those normally excluded from the world of ‘high art’. Apollo Magzine, February 2013

Exclusive Jewellery designed for Fate, Hope & Charity.

British Jewellery designer Alex Monroe has designed an exclusive new piece of jewellery to accompany the exhibition. The Foundling Lock Locket is a combination lock with tumblers coded with a hidden message. Alex has also designed a small collection of Tokens, which can be engraved with a personal message. Alex and his team will be at the Foundling Museum, in time for Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day, to engrave personal messages on Saturday 9 February and Saturday 9 March 2013 from 11:00 - 15:00.

The Foundling Lock Locket and a selection of Tokens by Alex Monroe are available for sale from the Foundling Museum Shop.

Join in online by following Foundling Museum on Facebook and @FoundlingMuseum on Twitter and tweet with #FateHopeCharity

Images: Foundling Hospital Tokens © Foundling Museum, London, Elizabeth Nihell’s trade card token, c. 1758 © Coram and Foundling Lock Locket by Alex Monroe.

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