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.


District nurse with woman and baby

‘A healthful form of work’: The history of Public Health Nursing

  • 4 October 2016 — 10 March 2017 *on now

Public health nursing has its origins in the 1800s with the rise of social reform and efforts to improve the health of the poorest in society. Through five overlapping waves of public health intervention, this exhibition highlights the development of public health nursing and the roles nurses have played in improving public health from the 19th century to the present day. The exhibition considers vaccination programmes – once within the medical field and now primarily a nursing role – alongside sanitary and welfare reforms, the development of health visiting, and recent interventions into social inequalities. By recognising the role of nurses in public health’s past, we aim to inspire a future in which public health is everyone’s business, in health care and beyond.

Suitable for

  • Not suitable for children


Opening times and visiting details can be found on our website. Tours for groups available on request.


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.
Sign pictures

Connect! Nursing: afternoon art tours

  • 29 October 2016 12-4pm

Drop-in between 12 - 4pm to see the RCN centenary art installation created by Peter Liversidge with nurses, nursing students and health care assistants.

A visit includes a guided tour of the historic building, from the Georgian town house (once home to prime minister H.H. Asquith) to the purpose-built 1920s College of Nursing.

Tours will take place at regular intervals, at busy times queuing may be necessary.

Suitable for

  • Any age


sign painting

Connect! Nursing: A Centenary Celebration

  • 29 October 2016 6-8pm
Sorry, fully booked

The RCN and Peter Liversidge invite you to join us for an extra special event to celebrate nursing through art and song, all whilst enjoying a delicious dinner. See a performance curated by Peter and RCN members, enjoy a meal using a special recipe cooked up just for the evening and view a unique art installation created in honour of nursing. At the end of the night, you'll have the chance to take away a piece of the art installation for yourself, and every attendee will also receive a numbered, limited edition water glass engraved by the artist.

Exactly a century ago, proposals were realised for a new College of Nursing. These shaped the nursing profession and drive the work of the RCN today. On our 100th birthday, the College invites artist Peter Liversidge to explore new proposals for the future of nursing. Join us for a celebration of our haunted 1700s townhouse, once home to Prime Minister H.H. Asquith and visited by suffragettes, and the 1920s college and women’s club.


Suitable for

  • Not suitable for children


Tickets cost £15 (£10 RCN members and all concessions). Your ticket price includes a celebratory dinner, performance and a unique piece of artwork curated by Peter Liversidge to take away.

Book online or call 029 2054 6460. Please note, non-member concessions are only bookable over the phone.


Group of nurses under a tree

RCN Remembrance Ceremony 2016

  • 7 November 2016 5:30-7pm

In this RCN centenary year, the Remembrance Ceremony will be held at the Guards’ Chapel, the only Royal Military Chapel in London and the spiritual home of the Household Division in their Ceremonial and Combat roles.

As well as the RCN's centenary, we also commemorate the centenary of the First World War, and the rolls of honour listing all nurses who died in both world wars will be available for viewing.

Suitable for

  • Not suitable for children


The Guards Chapel
Wellington Barracks, Birdcage Walk


Advance registration is required: contact RCN
Events Registration on 029 2054 6460.


Public health poster on Syphilis

Pre-Wolfenden to PrEP: HIV and sexual health services then and now

  • 28 November 2016 5:30-7pm

In the lead-up to World AIDS Day on 1 December, we look at the experiences of patients, nurses and other sexual health care workers in an event chaired by Simon Dowe, Chief Executive of The Sussex Beacon. Richard McKay (University of Cambridge) will discuss ongoing research into the pre-AIDS history of sexual health among men who had sex with men, as well as the role of the media in the North American AIDS epidemic. HIV specialist nurse Jason Warriner (Chair of the RCN Public Health Forum) will expand on HIV services today. What can we learn for the future of public health from the devastating recent history of the AIDS epidemic?


Photograph of Penny Pepper

Language and life: a personal journey of barriers and success

  • 8 December 2016 6-9pm

A unique and versatile writer of fiction, journalism, (The Guardian), memoir and spoken word poetry, Penny Pepper’s work examines difference, diversity and identity. As a well-known social justice activist, she has appeared on TV and Radio extensively speaking on equality issues including disability, feminism and sexuality. Her eagerly anticipated memoir First in the World Somewhere is published in September 2017 - an 80s-90s tale of defiance, music-making, sex and friendship, interwoven around the realities of being a young disabled women. Find out more at

One of the goals of the RCN’s founders in 1916 was for the new College of Nursing to offer support for the general welfare of all their members. Many nurses had sustained injuries during service in the war, both physical and psychological. Among other things, the College established rest homes where members could relax, rejuvenate and recover. Nursing today remains a wide-ranging and sometimes risky profession where the potential for developing an illness or disability through work can be high.

Join to as we look back at the achievements of nurses and health care workers with disabilities over the last 100 years.

This event will be live subtitled, and the venue is fully accessible.


Illustration from the Water Babies

The Journey of Childhood Public health: From the Victorian Age to the present

  • 25 January 2017 5:30-7pm

From inter-war malnutrition to Every Child Matters

The health issues facing children in the UK have changed dramatically since the emphasis on child labour in Charles Kingsley’s The Water Babies (1863): Florence Nightingale’s personal copy of this text features in our exhibition. Dr Jane K. Seymour (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine) explores the role of public health doctors and their teams, which included school nurses and health visitors, in the inter-war period, while Professor Viv Bennett CBE (Chief Nurse, Public Health England) reflects on later developments in child health.

How do we ensure that every child gets the best start in life?


Beef tea on the wards photo

Nursing the Tropics: The history of travel health

  • 15 February 2017 5:30-7pm

Travel medicine is a relatively new branch of medicine, offering advice to people travelling across the world for work or pleasure.

In the 1800s, nursing abroad was largely associated with Britain’s colonies. Dr Rosemary Wall (University of Hull) talks about this history, in which nurses could be seen as agents of imperial hygiene. Dr Jon Cossar, former Foundation Vice Dean of the Faculty of Travel Medicine, and travel health specialist nurse Jane Chiodini will offer personal reflections on the development of travel medicine from the 1980s. A panel discussion, chaired by RCN Public Health Forum committee member Sandra Grieve, will consider what the future holds for travel health.


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.