• Tianyi Jia

"Found": Mementos of the Abandoned

The Foundling Museum was opened in 2004. Before it served as a Museum, it was a Hospital that cared for abandoned babies. From 1741 to 1954, the Foundling Hospital educated approximately 25,000 orphans.


In 2016, the Foundling Museum held an art exhibition - “Found”. By showing the art of the abandoned, the exhibition not only reflects on the Museum’s heritage, but also sheds light to the unfortunate children again in the 21sh century.


“In order for something to be ‘found,’ it has to at some point in its history have been ‘lost.’” BY Cornelia Parker, the Hogarth Fellow at the Foundling museum

A total of ninety-four works were displayed. The Foundling Fellow Cornelia Parker not only invited over sixty artists, writers, and musicians to respond to the theme, but also collected the existing works from the eighteenth century. Many of those historic works are small objects left by mothers with their babies. The mementos are significant because they serve as the only identification if the mother or relatives return to claim their children in the Foundling Hospital. Every piece of work displayed in the art exhibition has a story behind it.


Artworks Exhibited in "Found"

This is a textile heart left by a mother to her child in the mid-eighteenth century. The heart is woven in red thread; a nail and pieces of jewelries are attached to it. The child that has the little heart has never been identified despite careful research.



This artifact is Smith’s Dad’s Stick. Smith’s father is a DIY lover. He painted every room in their house and changed colors by decade. This artifact exhibited in “Found” is a piece cut from the stick used by the father to stir paint. The colorful rings revealed the whole story and recorded the beautiful memories.



This sculpture is named Sunset. It was created by Bill Woodrow in 1984. He claimed that the location where he found the materials - car-bonnet and table - was lost in his memory.

“Did I find them? Did they find me? Do you only find things when you are looking for them?” BY Bill Woodrow


This golden sperm-whale tooth is found in a cigarette case by Marina Warner. She does not know the owner of the tooth or the history of the it. She claims that the tooth made her feel that the former lives are both close and far to us. She also mentions that objects have the power to preserve and eternalize some “lost” memories.




https://www.nybooks.com/daily/2016/06/14/foundling-museum-art-of-the-abandoned/

https://foundlingmuseum.org.uk/about/our-history/

https://foundlingmuseum.org.uk/events/found/

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