Saturday, 11 December 2010

Threads of Feeling - The Foundling Museum

Textile token of foundling 12058 - seen here

I finally got to see Threads of Feeling at The Foundling Museum in London today, an exhibition of textile tokens left with the babies given up for adoption to The Foundling Hospital in the mid-eighteenth century. Little snippets of ribbon, fabric, garments, embroidery, cockades and top knots which were kept with the details of the child's admission as a means of identification should the mother find herself able to reclaim her child at a future time.

I found it an emotional experience. It is hard to imagine another gesture that so clearly evokes the power invested in an object as the giving over of these harrowingly inadequate scraps. Each entry is recorded meticulously and anonymously, although sometimes the scrap is accompanied by a letter or is marked or sewn with a name and other personal details. The fabrics look as fresh and vivid as the day they were pinned to the billet in many instances which brings one up short. Not fragile, dusty relics of history, reassuringly distant and time-worn but bright, tangible reminders of the real people and the real stories that they embody.

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