In this project, young volunteers discover fascinating Foundling stories by learning how to use archives and developing their research and writing skills.

The Stories of Interest Volunteers are undergraduate and postgraduate students who are passionate about history and eager to learn more about the Foundling Hospital. They delve into Coram’s Foundling Hospital Archive, researching the lives of the young people who lived there, known as ‘Foundlings’.

From 1741 to 1954, over 25,000 children were brought up in the Foundling Hospital. It was London’s first home for children whose mothers were unable to care for them.

Stories of Interest is one of several projects in our Voices Through Time programme, supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. As part of this programme, we have digitised 100,000 archival records from the 18th and 19th centuries. These newly digitised records can be used for the very first time by the Stories of Interest Volunteers to research Foundlings’ lives.

Here is how they work with our team:

  • First, volunteers choose a Foundling who interests them and then examine the digitised records to find out about their life at the Foundling Hospital.
  • Once they have uncovered as much as they can about their chosen Foundling through the archive, public records and the historical context of the time, they compile their research findings.
  • Volunteers then write an article telling their Foundling’s story, which includes their time at the Foundling Hospital, life events and the issues they faced in that period of history.

The project is a chance for volunteers to gain first-hand experience of using archives, to learn how to carry out original research and to develop their writing skills by producing an article published on the Coram Story website. It’s an exciting opportunity for our Voices Through Time programme to allow Foundling stories to be uncovered from the material in our digitised archive, through brand-new research.

In 2022, we had our first cohort of student volunteers. Discover the Foundling stories they found here.

Our second cohort started in March 2023 and is deep into their research. Their articles will be published during the summer.

Project Archivist, Beck Price, says:

“It’s been really exciting and engaging working with our volunteers so far. They have already brought a wealth of different perspectives and insights into the digitised archives that have continued to enrich the stories uncovered from the archives. Everyone has been incredibly enthusiastic about their research and I cannot wait to see how they bring these stories to life.”

Volunteer Coordinator, Molly O’Doherty, says:

“We have a fantastic group of volunteers this year, who come from backgrounds in History and areas as diverse as Social Science, Languages, journalism, Anthropology, Art History and Medical Biosciences too! This is bringing some unique approaches to their research and I’m really looking forward to seeing what they uncover in our Foundling Hospital records. This is going to be a great opportunity to tell new Foundling stories that have never been heard before. Along the way, the volunteers are learning and challenging themselves, and we are learning from them too!”