Sunday, 24 March 2013

THIS IS A TOKEN.



I am giving it to you.
Because I have nothing else to give you.
Because I am very poor.
You can keep it.
As a reminder that I exist.
If you wish.
Or you can exchange it.
For something else.
And forget about me.
If you wish.
The choice is yours.

A few weeks ago I met up with the Lovely Colette and we went to the "Fate, hope and charity" exhibition at the Foundling Museum.
It was every bit as emotional as the "Threads of Feeling" exhibition of last year.
In 1739 after many many years of petitioning and campaigning Thomas Coram succeeded in gaining a royal charter for the Foundling Hospital.
The history of the hospital is at times wondrous and at times dark but at all times amazing.
There were some horrific statistics printed on the wall at the museum.
At the time of the hospital's opening 75% of Children in London and 95% of children in the workhouse didn't live beyond the age of 5.
The Hospital accepted children who's parent or parents could not care for them. 
The admissions process its self was heart breaking.
How we managed to come out with any of our emotions intact I do not know.
The mother would bring the child to the museum and if she managed to get through the lottery style selection process she could leave her child at the hospital.
She would leave a token with them and she would keep a matching one. If she was lucky enough to be able to come back to collect her child she would have to produce the token to be able to claim them back. That along with paying back all the money it had cost to support the child in her absence.
The exhibition was full of tragic tales of mothers who came back after years of absence only to find their child had died with in months of being left.
When a child was admitted to the hospital their name was changed  and all traces of their previous life removed, siblings were split up and given different surnames. The tokens left with them were sealed in packages with their details and filed away, most never saw the light of day again.
Many of the tokens were scraps of fabric, that was what the exhibition last year was all about.
This year was exploring all the other heart wrenching tokens in the archives.
I mean how impoverished must your life have been to only be able to leave a hazelnut shell for your child?



This one left us both a bit weepy. 
translated the symbols read "I want relief"


The words at the top of the post are from this print which is for sale in the museum shop. 
I found it so poignant and moving, which is why I bought it.
And then very carefully packed it ready for moving and so now I really can't tell you who the print is by. Which is really annoying as I hate to not be able to give credit when its due.



The exhibition is on until 19th May, The Museum is really interesting and has a great cafe, which helps to restore your emotional stability after the event.
Love Nora xxx

15 comments:

  1. Interesting and heart breaking, thank you for posting.

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  2. Posted a link to your bloggy from my bloggy xxx

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  3. Australia has just said sorry to all the unwed mothers who "gave up" their babies for adoptionin the 1960' & 70's and how many were told their baby had died...but to find them in adulthood.
    Some things just never change.... sad as

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  4. I was a young child in the late 1950s when I first saw this poignant display of sad little items and the memory remains as vivid as ever. My parents were 'choosing' a baby to adopt from a long line of cribs. How times have changed since then. Anyone interested in the history of the foundling hospital and the way things have 'slowly' progressed since the 1740s might want to read this.
    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Londons-Forgotten-Children-Foundling-Hospital/dp/0752442449/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1364204007&sr=1-1

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  5. popped over from Viv's blog - how unbelievably sad. It's unimaginable.
    Always good to remember how lucky we are.
    fee x

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  6. I've come from Viv's blog. Thank you for this review of the exhibition. I will try and get to see it for myself (I missed last year's, which I'm kicking myself about still).

    I suspect I should take plenty of tissues.....?!

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  7. Such a heart rendering post....xx

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  8. How heartbreaking! We take so much for granted in our lives nowadays. Thanks for sharing this x

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  9. Such a heartbreaking exhibition, but completely wonderful. I'm still soaking it all in, which makes me appreciate just how lucky we are these days.

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  10. Nora, que cosas tan originales! Felices Pascuas!

    ReplyDelete
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  12. How terribly sad. I keep trying to imagine how desperate a mother would have to be to leave her child in such a place.
    Hope the packing is going well ...
    M x

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  14. Hi Nora,

    Our print is by the artist David Shrigley, who created the piece in response to our 'this is A token' token. So glad to see that you enjoyed the Museum!

    Best,
    Danielle DeBernardo
    Retail Manager
    The Foundling Museum

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