Superman was a foundling. Ann Shirley was adopted. James Bond was fostered. The poet, Lemn Sissay, who spent some of his teenage years in care, has covered the walls of the cafe of the Thomas Coram Foundling Museum with the names of fictional heroes who grew up outside nuclear families. This work is the starting point for the museum’s current exhibition, Drawing on Childhood, which explores why literature’s most beloved sons and daughters are all alone in the world. The show is bookended by illustrations of foundlings Tom Jones and Jacqueline Wilson’s Dustbin Baby, taking in along the way Rapunzel and Snow White, Jane Eyre and Peter Pan, Roald Dahl’s James Trotter and Harry Potter.
The Foundling Hospital was established by Thomas Coram in 1739 as a home for London’s abandoned children and the museum is the perfect setting for this exhibition. It also has a special connection with the Institute of Education. Our Thomas Coram Research Unit has been researching children in the city and the institutions and families who care for them for 40 years. We focus, in particular on the marginalised and displaced and how their lives are storied, children who are migrants and who are in care, for example, or living in poverty.
Coram’s campaigning concern for London’s children is reflected in the exhibition, too. (more…)