Royal College of Nursing Library and Heritage Centre

Royal College of Nursing Library and Heritage Centre
20 Cavendish Square
Greater London




0345 337 3368

All information is drawn from or provided by the venues themselves and every effort is made to ensure it is correct. Please remember to double check opening hours with the venue concerned before making a special visit.
Historic nursing poster
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The Royal College of Nursing Library and Heritage Centre is home to Europe’s largest nursing specific collection of materials.

In 2013 we opened an exciting new space which includes publicly accessible exhibitions, a cafe and a shop within the Library space.

Also publicly accessible is a new space celebrating our Nursing History Collection – enabling visitors to browse nursing history texts, access some of our historic printed collection and to browse smaller exhibitions curated with the RCN History of Nursing Society.

A programme of public events is planned for 2014.

Venue Type:

Library, Museum, Archive, Association or society

Opening hours

Monday-Friday: 9am-7pm
Saturday: 9am-5pm (closed during August)

Admission charges

Entry is free, and no booking is required. There may be a charge for some services.

The Collection dates mainly from the 1850s onwards, though some earlier items are held. It comprehensively collects English language materials, focusing on nursing in the UK:
• 60,000+ Books and Pamphlets (dating from 1666 to present) including a significant collection of rare books and of grey literature
• 350 + Journals (1888 to present) print copies of journals, newsletters and magazines (in addition there are 1000+ contemporary e-journal subscriptions)
• 1,000+ Theses (1950s to present)
• RCN Archives (1890s to present)
• 725+ Personal Archives (1817 to present) including certificates
• 20 Organisational Archives (1887 to present) from organisations such as Commonwealth Nurses Federation; National Council of Nurses; Royal National Pension Fund for Nurses
• 625+ Interviews, Oral History Collection (1986 to present)
• Objects Collection: including 5,000+ photographs and lantern slides; 3,000+ medals and badges; 150+ audio recordings; 105+ videos and films; 150+ objects

Collection details


Exhibition details are listed below, you may need to scroll down to see them all.
Nursing lecture in a London hospital, c. 1930

This is Nursing

  • 7 October 2013 — 3 March 2015 *on now

Two hundred years ago there was no formal nursing education and no guarantee that those calling themselves a nurse had any training, qualification or skills. Today, delivering quality patient care is the job of highly skilled professionals, and all new entrants are required to follow a degree programme.

This new exhibition, using the Royal College of Nursing’s collections, tells the story of innovative nursing education. Meet the remarkable women and men who have fought for better nursing education and discover how learning has evolved alongside the profession’s knowledge and expertise. Learn about the foundation of nursing schools, the creation of a state register of nurses, and how university degrees were first introduced.

The displays include a wide variety of historic nursing equipment and memorabilia, from a collection of nursing uniforms, nurse badges, and a district nurse’s bag and contents from the 1930s to a copy of Elizabeth Hanbury’s 1828 book ‘The Good Nurse – Or Hints on the Management of the Sick and Laying-in Chamber’ and more modern items such as an oral-nasal oxygen mask.


Recovering servicemen and nurses at a military hospital

Frontline nurses: British nurses of the First World War

  • 4 August 2014 — 31 March 2015 *on now

Nurses, both military and civilian made important
contributions to the allied war effort and also
sustained the principle of humanitarianism at a time
when human life seemed to hold little value. On
the centenary of the First World War, this exhibition
commemorates the professional nurses who worked,
served and died between 1914 and 1918.

Please be aware that this exhibition is closed from 13.00 - 17.00 on Thursdays, to accomodate special collection invigilation sessions. For more information on these sessions please call our Library and Heritage Centre on 0345 337 3368.

Suitable for

  • Any age


Events details are listed below. You may need to scroll down or click on headers to see them all. For events that don't have a specific date see the 'Resources' tab above.
History of Nursing at the RCN Library

Books to shape a nursing world

  • 7 February 2015 9am-5pm

Explore some of the treasures from our historical collection and have a dig through nursing news of the past. Learn how to correctly handle delicate books and have the chance to flick through the pages of the Nursing Mirror and Nursing Times from 100 years ago.
Also discover our exhibitions, interactive history resources and collections in a special Libraries Day Quiz. Relax in our café and browse the books that have influenced personal nursing journeys.

Handling sessions are free and will take place in the Nursing History room. You must be 16 or over to attend.
Space is limited so please register using the link below.

Suitable for

  • Any age


Photograph of WW1 Nurses, Edith Cavell seated centre.

Scottish Women's Hospitals: the Nurses of Royaumont

  • 12 February 2015 4-6pm

Alison O’Donnell explores the history of the Scottish Women’s Hospitals. Founded by Dr Elsie Inglis, these remarkable units were staffed entirely by women, from nurses and surgeons to cooks and engineers.

The event will also include a chance to explore some of the First World War material from the RCN archives.

This event is co-ordinated by the RCN History of Nursing Society

Suitable for

  • Not suitable for children
  • 18+


RCN Archives
42 South Oswald Road


Kate Luard's Unknown Warriors

Kate Luard's Unknown Warriors

  • 12 March 2015 5:30-7pm

Kate Luard enlisted in the QAIMNSR two days after war was declared, on 6 August 1914. Through four years of nursing in France and Belgium, she exchanged numerous letters with her family about her experiences.

Tim Luard, Kate’s great-nephew, will explore these fascinating wartime memoirs, which have recently been re-published.

Followed by question and answer discussion.

Suitable for

  • 18+
  • 16-17


To reserve a place, please complete the online booking form.
Alternatively email or call 029 2054 6460.