The project is drawing to a close now (or maybe just a pause?) I continue to find the history of the Hospital fascinating and think the infants who were admitted to the Foundling Hospital were probably the lucky ones in many ways. They were fed, clothed, educated and taught the skills with which support themselves in adulthood but the experience of being stripped of everything they owned, including their name, had a profound effect on many of them.
The project was originally inspired by the words of one of the ‘Foundling Voices’ at the museum who speaks of ‘the functional but loveless care received, and the longing to be hugged or comforted’. I was struck by the way the children were washed and baptised on admission as both a physical and spiritual cleansing and imagined that bathing, for the children, may have been their only physical contact and the nearest thing to a comforting hug.
Soap conjured up many associations for me; The way it is worn by touch like the erosion of the children’s identities and individuality, and how for the mothers the ‘slate was wiped clean’ (so often not by choice) enabling them to resume their lives - soap has even been used as a crude method of abortion. The film came about because the soaps felt like before and after the events and I wanted to think about what happened in between..
When I collected the soaps that I'd left at the Foundling I discovered only one had been used.. I felt a slight pang of disappointment but was reminded that not all the babies were admitted to the Foundling Hospital either. Just as the foundlings' identities were lost through the process of cleansing so my one ‘soap baby’ was irrevocably changed by its time at the Foundling Museum.
The Soaps and film are now on exhibition at City Lit for the next two weeks.