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.
Photograph of two female nurses

Hidden in Plain Sight: Celebrating Nursing Diversity

  • 11 October 2017 — 10 March 2018 *on now

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


For Queen and Country: Nursing, Trauma, and War

For Queen and Country: Nursing, Trauma and War

  • 1 November 2017 — 3 June 2019 *on now

Throughout history conflicts have affected the physical and mental health of service personnel and civilians. From the Crimean War in 1853, when trained nurses were first posted to a war zone, to Afghanistan in 2014, each conflict has presented a unique challenge and injury pattern, while the environment and the threat of disease causes even more casualties than the battlefield. Nurses doing their duty for ‘Queen and Country’ provide skilled, compassionate care to anyone at every stage of the patient experience. This is their story.

Suitable for

  • Any age


RCN Scotland
42 South Oswald Road


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.
LGBT History Month

Love and War: Lesbian contributions to healthcare past and present

  • 22 February 2018 5:30-7pm

While we are all familiar with tales of nursing in World War One, we hear much less about those women who served alongside their female lovers. Jane Mackelworth explores the lives of a small handful of such women, particularly Vera ‘Jack’ Holme. This diversity continues to be valued in a health care environment. Jayne King, leader of the Guy’s and St Thomas’ LGBT staff forum celebrates the contributions of lesbian health workers today.
This event will be live subtitled, and followed by a drinks reception and exhibition viewing from 7-8pm.


  • Live subtitles


How to get published

How to get published

  • 28 February 2018 2-5pm

Ever wondered how to get your clinical practice, research or opinion pieces published? Hear from published authors, including Professor Ian Peate OBE FRCN about their experiences of publishing in books and journals.


Creativity & Compassion: Women Writer's

Creativity & Compassion: Women Writers

  • 8 March 2018 2-4pm

For International Women’s Day, we celebrate the value of arts for health with a focus on nurse writers and artists. Olwen Morgan, singer and artist, will perform her work while children’s writer Michele Pengelly talks about the value of creativity in nursing for young people.


RCN Wales Library and Information Service
Ty Maeth
CF14 4XZ


Studies in the History of Science and Trauma

Studies in the History and Science of Trauma

  • 15 March 2018 6-9pm

Professor Joanna Bourke is an expert on social and cultural history. Over the years, she has worked on the history of the emotions, particularly fear and hatred, and the history of sexual violence. Most recently, her research has focussed on questions of humanity, militarisation, and pain, and the relationship between patient and nurse.


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.