The Foundling Museum explores the history of the Foundling Hospital, the UK’s first children’s charity and first public art gallery, established in 1739 by the philanthropist Thomas Coram to care for babies at risk of abandonment.
Through a dynamic programme of exhibitions and events the Museum celebrates the ways in which artists of all disciplines have helped improve children’s lives for over 275 years.
The Foundling Museum stands on the site of the original Foundling Hospital. Although demolished in the 1920s, the Museum incorporates many architectural features reconstructed from the original Hospital building, including the magnificent rococo ceiling in the Court Room. Artists who donated work to the Foundling Hospital include William Hogarth, Thomas Gainsborough, Joshua Reynolds and John Michael Rysbrack. Paintings, sculpture, furniture and ceramics are displayed in beautiful eighteenth-century interiors. Alongside the art poignant artefacts reveal the lives of the children and the desperation of the mothers who gave them up. These include the small everyday objects, or ‘tokens’, left by women with their babies in the eighteenth century, as well as admission records, text books, uniforms, and the testimony of former pupils of the Foundling Hospital in the twentieth century.