A new series from the Textile Center Library: ART SPEAKS
This monthly series focuses on a different fiber art topic as a way to explore the Library’s collection.
Fiber and Orphans
Opening in 1741, London’s Foundling Hospital admitted over 27,000 babies documented solely with a piece of fabric. Often the fabric was heart-shaped and cut in half, with the baby wearing one half and the mother the other to show her broken heart. Using the scraps from the fabric orphan tags, researchers have learned about the fashions of everyday peoples in the 1740s. The worn swatches also include the residue of life. Using today’s forensic science, researchers have studied the fabric as depositories of the orphans’ DNA in order to track down their living relatives. While scholars have previously dismissed the history of perishable commodities such as cloth as un-reconstructable, researchers have now learned much about ancient textiles and the people and societies that created them from such unusual sources.
Textile Center Library resources:
Selvedge Magazine (Issue 36, Sept/Oct 2010, pg 37). “Scrap of a Thing: 18th Century Textile Tokens from the Foundling Hospital.”
Threads of Feeling: The London Foundling Hospital’s Textile Tokens by John Styles
Women’s Work: The First 20,000 Years: Women, Cloth and Society in Early Times by Elizabeth Wayland Barber
These resources are available in our collection. Check the library catalog for availability or to learn more.
Come visit Textile Center Pat O’Connor Library and make your own connections with our collection.
Contributions: Nancy Mambi, Librarian and Diane Knights, Volunteer
(photo: Selvedge Magazine (Issue 36, Sept/Oct 2010, pg 37). “Scrap of a Thing: 18th Century Textile Tokens from the Foundling Hospital.”)