Monday, 21 February 2011

Threads of feeling

Photograph by The Foundling Museum

The Threads of Feeling exhibition has been running at the Foundling Museum since October and is soon to close on March 6th. The exhibition shows the pieces of fabric that mothers gave along with each baby who was left at the Foundling Hospital between 1741 and 1760. The purpose of the hospital retaining the fabric was originally intended to mean that should a mother be in a position to reclaim her baby she would be able to prove their bond by arriving with a matching swatch of fabric. I also imagine though, that leaving a little of their own identity served to help mothers feel that they were leaving their baby with some care; that a fragment of herself travelled on with the child (if the child arrived without a token from the mother, then a small fabric swatch was instead cut from the child's own clothing).

Photograph by The Foundling Museum

Over 250 years later, the hospital's collection is now being shared with the public and the fabrics are of interest on many levels (although I have to confess that my own interest in them is almost entirely sentimental):

"The textiles are both beautiful and poignant, embedded in a rich social history. Each swatch reflects the life of a single infant child. But the textiles also tell us about the clothes their mothers wore, because baby clothes were usually made up from worn-out adult clothing. The fabrics reveal how working women struggled to be fashionable in the 18th Century." - The Foundling Museum Website.

Photograph by The Foundling Museum

I have been planning to visit the exhibition with my mother since she tore out a newspaper article about it several months ago but, upsettingly, the weekend has never materialised when it felt right to leave my family and disappear to London for a day (they have been surprisingly high maintenance these last few months!). I still have high hopes for the final week that it runs following half-term, and will be planning a break-away around even a glimmer of opportunity. However, I feel so certain that this exhibition will be utterly wonderful (possibly in a tear-stained way that may require the taking along of hankies), that I wanted to post about it in case anyone near London has missed the press about it and might like to go along themselves. You can find the details here. For those who, like me, find themselves unable to go or are far away from London, then you can view the online exhibition (although unfortunately this has only made me more desperate to go along in person and I imagine that the watching of it could result in overnight train journeys and long-haul flights being undertaken. Don't say that I didn't warn you).

Wishing you a lovely half-term week,
Florence x

17 comments:

  1. I did a course on childhood with the Open University last year and one of the sections dealt with the setting up of orphanages and the Foundling Hospital in particular. It made me sad just reading about it, I'm not sure I could deal with the actual exhibition. I'm an emotional wreck since I had my own little darlings!

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  2. My mother-in-law went to see this exhibition and I was in floods of tears just listening to her description of it. (she rated it very highly by the way). The whole background to it is just so poignant I don't think my sentimental soul could take it. I hope you do manage to squeeze in a few hours to see it, it's worth making the effort for something that's been singing to you like this. xx

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  3. I've been desperate to visit Threads of Feeling too, and rushed off to see it this week with Gill on our walk. I didn't end up writing much about it on my blog, because I just couldn't find the words - amazing, fascinating and very upsetting is probably the best way I can describe it. They should provide packets of tissues at the door, because everyone in there was sniffing or wiping away tears!

    If you possibly can, you should try and visit before it shuts. But you knew that already!

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  4. I have to say, the difficulty of getting to interesting exhibitions in London if you come from out of town is something I always underestimate until I get out my diary! I'd heard of the exhibition, but as I'm still trying to get to the Tutankhamun exhibition in Manchester, I don't rate my chances very highly!

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  5. Did you see the program on the BBC and children during the industrial revolution? They had excerpts from children’s diaries and things like that. It was very moving and eye opening.

    I won't make it to the exhibition but I'm off to check it out online.

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  6. I went on Saturday - it's small but perfectly formed, like many of the very finest exhibitions.

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  7. I'd love to visit this exhibition as my great grandparent's were both foundling babies. I should try to make a visit with my mother before it closes, thank you for the reminder x

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  8. Thank you so much Florence for reminding me about this amazing exibition. Well I'm sure it is amazing, although I have not seen it yet either. I might just make it...

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  9. Hello my name is Monica and I loved the blog full of wonderful ideas!
    Since I became your follower and took your link to my blog to go see the news!
    kisses from Portugal!
    Mónica
    http://queridomudeiocanteirodasjoaninhas.blogspot.com/

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  10. My gosh, I'm in tears just looking at the online link, what a poignant
    exhibition. I'd love to see it, but sadly it's yet another I'll miss. x

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  11. Oh my goodness.... Thank you for this heart-rending museum trip. I sincerely hope you get to view it in person, and sincerely thank you for sharing it here.

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  12. Thank you so much for posting this. I won't make the exhibit from the U.S., but I was fascinated to look at it online. Such very sad circumstances. I'm staggered by the numbers.

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  13. I would definitely enjoy visiting this but have absolutely no hope that it will happen. If you do get there, please appreciate it and shed a tear or two on my behalf as well and maybe share some of what you saw here. I loved what you wrote about the V&A's quilt exhibition last year.

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  14. Oh my. My own feelings are reflected by those of Smee. I don't think I could cope. I would be a wreck. I think that I have always been a bit soft, but now I have had babies... what pressures we are put under sometimes!

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  15. I think I just commented on the wrong post - the one about the museums was of course meant to go here...

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  16. Thank you so much for posting the link to the online exhibition. I am unable to get over to see the exhibition before it closes so it was good to be able to see a small part of it. Very moving.

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  17. Thank you so much for all your comments. Oh & Nina, I can't find your original comment - but thank you so much for all those lovely links - you are the source of so many very good things - and I love that you too would think that it had the possibility to think it might be a museum for people called Geoffry - I'd never heard of that one before, but it looks wonderful. x

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Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a message - it's always really lovely to hear from people.

I now tend to reply within the comments section, so please do check back if you've asked a question or wish to chat.

Florence x