Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Foundling Museum - Museum Mile - Touring Tuesday

I'm continuing my tour of all participants in the Museum Mile.  Please enjoy my summary of all the sites I have visited here.  

The Foundling Museum is nestled on a wooded street near the Russell Square Underground station.  The Foundling Museum is another gem in the Museum Mile.

The premise of this museum is more emotional than the others in the collection, and I have a lot to share with you.  It tells the history of the Foundling Hospital, which operated from 1739-1954.  At the hospital's beginning London was in a bad place, and people were struggling to survive.  For some bringing a baby into the world was too much to handle, and many babies were abandoned across the city.  The Foundling Hospital was created by Thomas Coram to look after these children whilst their parents found their way again.

When a child was admitted to the hospital their parent left a token behind in the child's file.  This was essentially the claim ticket the parent would use when they returned for their child.  Some families left strips of fabric which were cut into two pieces so the hospital could have one part and the parent the other.  Still other parents left elaborate coins, pieces of jewelry, or ornate trinkets that could be described when they returned. 

The token was vitally important for the identity of the child.  After admission to the hospital, each child was renamed and baptized.  The token was the only thread to their former life.  Sadly, only about five percent of parents ever returned for their child.  If a parent returned for their child they were responsible to repay for the boarding and care of their child.  

The exhibit had audio and video snippets from former residents at the Foundling Hospital.  They accounted the daily routine and weekly outing around the neighborhood.  It reminded me of a military-style life with meals and playtime highly planned.  

When the children reached certain ages (I seem to remember 14), they were sent out into the community to work.  Some children moved up the ranks in their jobs and some did not.  

Further research indicated that the hospital kept immaculate records.  The data keepers made sure every last detail was recorded at admission.  The City of London Archives has many of the Foundling Hospital's actual records.  

Fast forward to present day.  While the Foundling Hospital is no longer in operation, the founder's legacy continues.  Coram is the group that continues to look after children in England.  The group supports parents and children through training, and they also assist with adoptions.

The Foundling Hospital is open Tuesday through Sunday and admission is £8.25.  It is located near the Russell Square Underground station (Piccadilly Line)

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