The Parlour: A Conversation Between Past & Present was an interactive installation at Coram, which invited examination of – and response to – an expanding online timeline of evidence and testimony. It ran from September 2021 to October 2022 as part of Coram’s Voices Through Time programme, made possible by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Spanning three centuries of the story of care, the display included stories from the Coram archive and our recent work with care leavers and young people. Visitors could also experience an admissions day at the Foundling Hospital, with audio clips and visual display creating an immersive experience. Hearing petition letters read out helped visitors to imagine what it was like to be a mother petitioning for her child to be looked after by the Foundling Hospital and the difficult, life-altering choice she must have made.

Visitors recorded their responses to the exhibition and our ongoing story of care. Here is a comment from one of our volunteer transcribers who visited:

“I had a wonderful time. I found The Parlour to be especially insightful. To hear the voices of children in care, especially in the creative ways they expressed themselves was really rewarding. I also really enjoyed hearing the letters of mothers read out. It felt very much as if Coram was still strongly linked to its past and founding ideals even with all the many years that have passed since the Foundling Hospital was opened.”

Listen to the sound clips from the display in our SoundCloud playlist. These include petition letters from mothers to the Foundling Hospital to look after their children and a scene where a mother is taken through the initial balloting process and rejection of having her baby admitted to the Hospital.

You can also look back at photos of The Parlour display below.