Royal College of Nursing Library and Heritage Centre

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.

Our venue includes publicly accessible exhibitions, a cafe and a shop within the Library space. Our Nursing History Collection enables visitors to browse nursing history texts, access some of our historic printed collection and to browse smaller displays curated with the RCN History of Nursing Society.

Venue Type:

Library, Museum

Opening hours

Monday-Friday: 9am-7pm
Saturday: 9am-5pm (closed Saturdays in 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.
Exhibition entrance photograph with 1916 furniture

The Voice of Nursing: Celebrating 100 years of the RCN

  • 4 January 2016 — 22 December 2017 *on now

Since 1916 the Royal College of Nursing has pioneered professional standards for nurses, shaped health policies and promoted excellence in practice. In this exhibition, we invite you to explore how nursing has changed over the past 100 years. With stories from nurses themselves and items from our unique collections, discover how the RCN has developed from a small professional women’s organisation to become the Voice of Nursing in 2016.

Suitable for

  • Any age


Visiting details and opening times can be found on our website. Tours available for booked groups.


Photograph of two female nurses

Hidden in Plain Sight: Celebrating Nursing Diversity

  • 11 October 2017 — 10 March 2018

The nursing workforce is diverse, with healthcare workers representing a huge variety of backgrounds and experiences. This exhibition celebrates the contributions of some of the people whose work and lives have too often been overlooked. Here we highlight just a few of these disparate stories from the RCN collections, including the role of lesbian nurses in the First World War, the contributions of Black and Minority Ethnic nurses throughout the mid twentieth century, and the ways in which deaf mental health nurses have improved services for deaf patients at pioneering hospitals around England in the last few decades.

Suitable for

  • Family friendly
  • 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.
Hidden in Plain Sight: Exhibition Launch

Hidden in Plain Sight: Exhibition launch for Black History Month

  • 11 September — 11 October 2017 *on now

Join us for the launch of our exhibition, with a special focus on celebrating the contributions of Black and Minority Ethnic nurses. Speakers include Yvonne Coghill OBE, Director of the NHS Workforce Race Equality Standard. Yvonne will share her reflections and observations about the importance of challenging racism and its relevance to delivering better outcomes for all patients and staff. It promises to be a lively and thought-provoking evening.
This event will have live subtitles and a BSL interpreter.


  • BSL Interpreter
  • Live Subtitles


When Words Are Not Enough: Making a difference to children with complex needs through arts-based research

  • 12 October 2017 6:30-9:30pm

Professor Jane Coad has a strong background and years of experience in art and nursing children with long term health needs. Her lecture will have something for all - using arts-based approaches; research into difficult health needs and thinking creatively in your work. All are welcome!


  • Live Subtitled


Watershed, 1 Canon's Road


The Three-Headed Nightingale

Up close and medical: Discover London’s Medical Museums Medical Open Mic

  • 28 October 2017 6-8pm

Stay late! Be entertained for the evening at our Medical Open Mic. Watch museums stand-up and hear the weirdest and wildest medical stories as we show off the lighter side of medical history. Children are welcome but some content may not be suitable for young audiences.




South London Rational School, 3 Blackfriars Road

Up close and medical: Discover London’s Medical Museums - Medical Marketplace

  • 28 October 2017 2-5pm

Try your hand at Victorian pill making, wince at sixteenth century forceps and test your surgical skills, with London’s Medical Museums. At this free marketplace discover the more surprising side of London’s medical history. Handle objects from centuries past and join workshops from suturing to spoken word poetry.
Free, drop-in, open to all.

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.