Nuovo allestimento mostra segnali

The exhibition “And the other half I shall keep”, dedicated to the identifying tokens of the old Hospital, becomes permanent at the Museo degli Innocenti in Florence. The exhibition maintains the original structure but will show a new selection of small objects chosen from the 40,000 “tokens” that accompanied the children when they arrived at the Institute. The exhibition “And the other half I shall keep”, which opened on 3 November 2022 until 30 September 2023, has now been renewed with the aim of maintaining it as a permanent exhibition in the Museum.

The exhibition will change periodically with the intention of continuing to share and narrate a unique heritage, one of the richest of its kind in the world, and promote its protection, popularisation and dissemination. The cabinets set up in the history section of the museum will display registers and old papers, coins and medals, crosses and rosaries, as well as buttons, jewels, fragments of fabrics and photographs, the so-called “tokens”. In almost every case, they are broken in two, attesting not only to personal identities and family ties, but also to the interweaving of major historical and cultural events, daily life and the centuries-old history of the hospital from the children’s perspective.

The exhibition “And the Other Half I Shall Keep”

The exhibition is dedicated to the identifying tokens of the Ospedale degli Innocenti. The purpose of these small objects that girls and boys had with them when they were left at the Institute was to ensure their survival. A selection from the 40,000 “tokens” kept in the Institute's Historical Archive is on display: coins, medals, but also votive accessories, such as rosaries, medals and crosses, or objects of general use such as jewels, buttons and ribbons and, from the Unification of Italy onwards, images depicting Garibaldi and Victor Emmanuel II and tricolour ribbons. The exhibition has also given a voice to the story of Tommaso Domenico, who was abandoned at the Innocenti on 21 December 1449 with a note stating that he was the son of monna Domenica. The note also asked for him to be baptised as Tommaso and is the oldest polizza that has been found so far in the Historical Archive. One of the oldest tokens kept by the Institute, however, is that of little Riccarda, a girl of about one year of age, who was handed over to the Innocenti by a maid from the Compagnia del Bigallo on 6 February 1771 on the basis of an agreement between the two institutions whereby the Innocenti was the foundling institution responsible for children under three. She wore a medal of the Three Kings, an embroidered breve della Marca and a polizza with half a coin (the token) in it. In 1861, the year of the Unification of Italy, as many as 1,477 tokens were left with more than half of the children who were probably legitimate offspring who could be taken back by their families.  There were also new objects such as medals depicting Garibaldi, Victor Emmanuel II or Napoleon III.  The colours of the Italian flag (green, white and red) featured in ribbons, and various polizze asked for children to be given evocative names such as Italia, Cammillo, Garibaldo or Vittorio Emanuelle.  These items also include the token of little Tecla, who arrived at the Innocenti on 24 July 1861 wearing the diagonal half of a silver medal with the effigy of Garibaldi.

Recovery, restoration and digitisation

One of the Institute's objectives is to ensure the preservation, protection and popularisation of more than 40,000 tokens, through the archival reorganisation, inventorying and digitisation of the objects and documents related to them (the Hospital’s children's admission registers). The images that have been created and their metadata need to be placed in a digital showcase that will allow them to be viewed and consulted from the web, thus spreading this knowledge.

The exhibition “And the Other Half I Shall Keep. The Identifying Tokens of the Ospedale degli Innocenti” has been designed to make visitors aware of the great conservation project the Institute intends to launch thanks to the Foundation Istituto degli Innocenti Ets that will support this project with fundraising initiatives (for donations, visit

Last update: 01/24/2024 - 13:08