The Paupers’ Looking Glass

In the pauper dormitories of the St. Sepulchre Workhouse, a looking glass is listed in the 1751 workhouse inventories. By exploring the narrative of this object further we can uncover some aspects of the paupers’ lives as well as the true nature of the St. Sepulchre Workhouse as an institution.

The looking glass may seem insignificant at first, but upon further consideration, it seems out place and does not at all fit the common perception of the workhouse as an institution that attempts to destroy any shred of individuality that once belonged to its inmates. Additionally, looking glasses were not as common as they are today and probably would have belonged mostly to members of the upper class.

In a museum setting, this looking glass could immerse the visitors as an element of a larger display containing more of the elements of the dormitory environment. In this way, the setting would be more immersive and would also provide an opportunity to think critically about the workhouse institution and about the everyday significance of a looking glass for the average pauper.

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