I’m very excited about a new series of posts I’m going to write this year, partly because I’ve no idea where they’ll be about yet!
I read about the Take 12 Trips challenge last year over on Clare’s excellent blog Need Another Holiday, and as I’ve now got a blog of my own I couldn’t resist the challenge of taking part in 2015. Even if I did decide to take part rather late!
The point of the challenge is to make time to travel even if you have a full time job, by taking 12 trips in a year. Trips can be anything from a two week holiday to a day trip. It’s all about making the time to see and appreciate this wonderful world of ours – from far-flung destinations abroad to local places you have never made time to visit. This appeals to me in so many ways, I love travelling but I also love home, so don’t necessarily want to give everything up to wander the world. This is the perfect way to make travel a big part of my life alongside everything else I enjoy.
I’ve already been somewhere new as a result of this challenge. I was meeting some friends in London on Sunday and I decided, rather than just going for lunch and wandering round the shops, that I should live up to the point of the project and do something more exciting. So I suggested visiting one of the slightly off the beaten track London museums for my first trip of the year. So we headed to The Foundling Museum in Bloomsbury, an area of London I know well, although I hadn’t been to this museum before.
The Foundling Hospital was set up in the mid eighteenth century by Thomas Coram, to try and do something for the huge numbers of babies that were being abandoned on the streets of London. Children were accepted to the hospital then clothed, fed and educated for a better life.
The museum tells tough stories as a result – women queued up to entrust their babies to the hospital, with a ballot running as there was so much demand, some families would be turned away even after making the decision to put their children in the Foundling Hospital.
Generally only five percent of these children would ever be reunited with their families. When entering the hospital a token was given with each child, so that if the family wanted to take the child back they could describe their token and prove their relationship to the child. The child would never see the token, they would remain in their files, and they were given new names. The display of tokens is one of the most heart rending in the museum, there is everything from pots of rouge to buttons, or metal tokens with carefully carved inscriptions of love.
These are absorbing stories that can only be truly appreciated when seeing the reconstructed rooms that mothers would have left their babies in (they seem intimidatingly grand to me), as well as interpretation around the lives of the children.
A key way the hospital made money to function was to set up the first public picture gallery in London, and many of these artworks and galleries can still be seemed today. The link with artists continues as there are a series of modern art installations round the exhibition space – these lines of little white jackets with labels detailing the negative comments children in care have endured, by Care leavers from Westminster and Ealing and artist Emma Middleton, were some of the most powerful.
Children who have been adopted, fostered or were foundlings have very little voice in the outside world, and this museum helps to redress the balance just a little bit.
If you’re interested in combining the Foundling Museum with a tour of Bloomsbury more generally, I would really recommend UCL’s museums for something else a little off the beaten path. The Charles Dickens museum is also nearby, which I can’t vouch for (another 12 trips visit perhaps?) And finally, there is also the best museum in London (and possibly the world) in the British Museum a few squares over, and I can vouch for how good that is!
If you want to follow along with others taking on the #Take12Trips challenge then check out the Twitter hashtag.