Coram to digitise archives dating back to 18th century

The National Lottery has funded the children’s charity to digitise records dating back to when it launched as a children’s hospital in London in 1739.

Joe Lepper | 3rd Oct 19

Coram has been handed £1.26m from the National Lottery to digitise its archives, which date back to the Eighteenth century.

The UK’s oldest children’s charity has been awarded the money through the National Lottery Heritage Fund to carry out a four-year digitisation project of its archives.

The Voices Through Time: The Story of Care digital project involves data from as far back as 1739, when the charity was first established as the Foundling Hospital, which looked after abandoned babies in London.

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The archive will then be used by young people in care or leaving care for creative projects connecting the stories from the past to experiences of the present. More than 100 young people will be directly involved with this.

The oldest of the charity’s archives are held at London Metropolitan Archives and are in a fragile and vulnerable condition. This involves more than 245 metres worth of records and digitising 112,000 images.

Material includes petition letters from mothers seeking entry to the hospital for their children and items they left with them.

“These will be safeguarded for future generations and brought to life for new audiences who will be able to view it online for the first time,” said Coram.


Young people’s projects

Specific digital archive projects include young people crafting their own letters on issues of public interest or social problems.

A film on the subject of ‘home’ will also be created and a display linking the day to day routine of the Foundling hospital and young people now will also be created.

The archives and projects are being made accessible to the public online here.

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Coram Chief Executive Officer Dr Carol Homden, said: “Coram’s Foundling Hospital archive represents not just an unbroken institutional narrative, but individual human lives, and it is our duty to ensure its long-term sustainability for future generations.

“This generous grant from The National Lottery Heritage Fund will enable us to do so, whilst revealing the history of the care system to a whole new audience through online accessibility for the first time.

“This project will give care-experienced young people opportunities to engage directly with the archive enriching the story of care by adding their own voices, whilst increasing understanding about their lives and experiences.”

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