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

Medicine

Exhibition details are listed below, you may need to scroll down to see them all.
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

Where

RCN Scotland
42 South Oswald Road
Edinburgh
EH9 2HH
Scotland

Website

https://www.rcn.org.uk/library/exhibitions-and-events/exhibitions

Pandemic! 100 Years of n Nursing Infection

Pandemic! 100 Years of Nursing Infection

  • 5 April — 24 September 2018 *on now

Disease is powerful. It can devastate communities and countries, threaten global security and challenge modern medicine and health care. This exhibition explores how nurses have responded to deadly outbreaks, from the so-called Spanish Flu epidemic after the First World War to more recent contagions, like HIV/AIDS and Ebola. Today the risks for the spread of disease are increasing. We travel more frequently and further than we ever have before. War continues to fracture populations and compromise access to basic sanitation. And with each class of antibiotics we develop, bacteria evolve to resist and survive.

Suitable for

  • Any age
Photograph of two female nurses

Hidden in Plain Sight: Celebrating Nursing Diversity

  • 26 April — 12 October 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

Where

RCN Scotland
42 South Oswald Road
Edinburgh
EH9 2HH

Additional info

Open Monday, Tuesday, Friday, 10am - 4pm and for events

Website

https://www.rcn.org.uk/library/exhibitions-and-events/exhibitions

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

  • 26 April 2018 4-6pm

Join us and SWAN LGBT Networking for the launch of our exhibition Hidden in
Plain Sight. View our exhibition celebrating nursing diversity and explore LGBT equality at work with speakers including Stonewall Scotland Role Model Carole Anderson on the NHS Golden Jubilee National Hospital’s groundbreaking LGBT equality work creating an inclusive and diverse workforce leading to recognition in the Stonewall Employer list. SWAN LGBT Networking provides safe, inclusive and welcoming business network events in Scotland aimed at lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

Suitable for

  • Any age

Where

RCN Scotland
42 South Oswald Road.
Edinburgh
EH9 2HH

Website

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/hidden-in-plain-sight-launch-of-the-rcn-diversity-exhibition-edinburgh-tickets-44263159301

Hidden in Plain Sight: Celebrating Nursing Diversty

Hidden in Plain Sight: Celebrating Nursing Diversity

  • 26 April — 12 October 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. Open Monday, Tuesday, Friday 10am-4pm.

Suitable for

  • Any age

Where

RCN Scotland
42 South Oswald Road
Edinburgh
EH9 2HH
Scotland

Website

https://www.rcn.org.uk/library/exhibitions-and-events/exhibitions

First World War Nurses Card

Deeds Not Words: Nursing at War (Cardiff)

  • 1 May 2018 5-7pm

Find out more about the work nurses and female medical officers did during the First World War in this special screening of archive and documentary footage introduced with a talk on the wartime story of Welsh nurse Annie Brewer. Films screened will include archive footage of First World War nurses, and two new documentaries: The Invisible Killer of World War 1: Blast Injury and Deeds Not Words: The Suffragette Surgeons of WW1. Part of the #WomensWork100 series of events in partnership with the First World War Centenary and the Imperial War Museum.

Suitable for

  • 16-17
  • 18+
  • 14-15

Where

RCN Wales
Ty Maeth
King George V Drive East
Cardiff
CF14 4XZ
Wales

Website

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/deeds-not-words-nursing-at-war-cardiff-tickets-44600047944

Drawing of two VAD nurses: one in uniform, one in an improved version. Titled "Why not a little more freedom in design?"

Deeds Not Words: Nursing at War

  • 1 May 2018 5-7pm

Find out more about the work nurses and female medical officers did during the First World War in this special screening of archive and documentary footage introduced with a talk on the wartime story of Welsh nurse Annie Brewer.

Films screened include archive footage of First World War nurses and two new documentaries: The Invisible Killer of World War 1: Blast Injury and Deeds Not Words: The Suffragette Surgeons of WW1. There will also be a display of items on Annie Brewer and refreshments will be provided.

Part of the #WomensWork100 series of events in partnership with the First World War Centenary and the Imperial War Museum.

Suitable for

  • Any age

Where

RCN Wales
Ty Maeth
King George V Drive East
Cardiff
CF14 4XZ
Wales

Getting there

Parking is available in the staff car park at Ty Maeth after 5pm.

Admission

Doors will open at 5pm and the event starts at 5.30pm. Parking is available onsite after 5.

Website

https://cardiffnursingdeeds.eventbrite.co.uk

Flu Letter

In Flew Enza: Letters from the 1918 Flu Pandemic (Derby)

  • 31 May 2018 5-7pm

What was it like to live through one of the most deadly epidemics in recent memory? Join us for an evening of letters written by ordinary people who survived the “Spanish” flu (1918-20). The event will be curated and introduced by historian Hannah Mawdsley, who is researching the social and cultural impact of the flu epidemic.

Suitable for

  • Any age

Where

Derby Museum and Art Gallery
The Strand
Derby
DE1 1BS
England

Website

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/in-flew-enza-letters-from-the-1918-flu-pandemic-derby-tickets-42983597096

Matron Gordon

"Please Matron!" Hospital Hygiene in 1901

  • 18 June 2018 5:30-7:30pm

Are you brave enough to meet Matron? Experience what it was like to be a Victorian nursing student in 1900, as Matron Gordon shows what life was like in the Nightingale Training School at the end of the 19th century. This hour-long dramatic reconstruction of a lecture to probationer nurses around 1900 demonstrates how important nurses were in maintaining standards of hygiene and cleanliness in hospitals. It will be followed by a panel discussion on the history of infection control and prevention, chaired by Dr Claire Jones.

Suitable for

  • Any age

Website

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/please-matron-hospital-hygiene-in-1901-london-tickets-44404687616

Community Nursing

RCN Public Lecture: Compassion and End of Life Care (Perth)

  • 20 June 2018 6-9pm

What care would you or could you expect at the end of life? And why should we all be talking about this more? Join us for a public lecture exploring compassion, community and hospice care. Speakers include Sandra Campbell, a leading nurse expert in end of life care involved in a variety of innovative work. The event will be followed by a drinks reception.
This event is funded by the RCN Foundation and will be live subtitled.

Suitable for

  • Any age

Where

Noire-Miller Studio, Perth Concert Hall
Mill Street
Perth
PH1 5HZ

Website

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/rcn-public-lecture-compassion-and-end-of-life-care-perth-tickets-44263402027

Beat the bugs

RCN Late: Beat the Bugs!

  • 2 July 2018 6-9pm

To launch the AIDS Histories and Cultures Festival, join us for an evening of games, activities and displays. Find out how quickly viruses can spread in a set of interactive activities, explore archive collections, play infection themed games and make your own AIDS quilt in memory of those who have lived and died with HIV/AIDS.
Free event with pay bar. In partnership with the Raphael Samuel History Centre.

Suitable for

  • Any age

Website

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/rcn-late-beat-the-bugs-london-tickets-44405220209

Women & Aids

Nothing for us without us: I Am ICW

  • 9 July 2018 5:30-7pm

An HIV diagnosis in the 1980s meant illness, isolation, stigma, rejection and death. An assumption that HIV did not affect women meant they were particularly isolated, with no services to meet their needs. In 1992 a group of women from different countries, cultures and backgrounds founded ICW, the International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS. Hear from founders and members of ICW about their experiences, past and present, of healthcare, advocacy and activism. This event will be live subtitled.

Suitable for

  • Any age

Website

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/nothing-for-us-without-us-i-am-icw-london-tickets-44405655511

Nurses fighting AIDS stigma

Nursing a Plague: History, Testimony and Memory

  • 31 July 2018 5:30-7:30pm

“AIDS is not over and neither is AIDS in the past” (Sarah Schulman). That past resonates through our present – through relationships, sexual cultures and sexuality, through art and culture, and through experiences of stigma, fear and guilt. This event will draw powerfully on excerpts from oral histories of HIV/AIDS affected people, including nurses, curated by researchers Tommy Dickinson and George Severs.
This event will be live subtitled.

Suitable for

  • Any age

Website

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/nursing-a-plague-aids-history-testimony-and-memory-london-tickets-44601447129

The art of caring: beyond the Ebola crisis

The Art of Caring: Beyond the Ebola crisis

  • 16 August 2018 5:30-7:30pm

The impact epidemics have continues well beyond the crisis itself: social, psychological and political. Here, we look at two interventions into Ebola. Artist Mary Beth Heffernan talks about the psychosocial benefits of her project to humanise the personal protective equipment (PPE) worn by health care workers during the outbreak. Gillian McKay, who co-ordinated a public health intervention in Sierra Leone in 2014/15, is now researching the impact the outbreak had on family planning services, and how “no-touch” and PPE policies altered the patient-provider relationship. This event will be live subtitled.

Suitable for

  • Any age

Website

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/the-art-of-caring-beyond-the-ebola-crisis-london-tickets-44601619645

Tuberculosis Sanitorium

Nursing Night Sweats: Tuberculosis care in the early twentieth century

  • 6 September 2018 5:30-7pm

Before the advent of successful drug therapies in the 1950s, nursing was central to patients’ experiences of tuberculosis care. Patients could spend months or years on the ‘rest cure’ in sanatoriums and also at home. Dispensaries were staffed by visiting tuberculosis nurses who brought care into patients’ homes. In the sanatorium specialist nurses were vital but in short supply. Could former patients fill-in? Writer Helen Bynum, author of Spitting Blood: The History of Tuberculosis, explores the places, politics and practices of nursing TB patients.

Where

RCN Eastern Region: Abbotsgate House
Hollow Road
Bury St Edmunds
Suffolk
IP32 7AU

Website

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/nursing-night-sweats-tuberculosis-care-in-the-early-twentieth-century-bury-st-edmunds-tickets-44601860365

Royal College of Nursing

Open House London

  • 22 September 2018 10am-4:30pm

RCN HQ is an innovative mix of architecture old and new. In this rare opportunity to see ‘behind the scenes’, tours will encompass the unique Italian Baroque painted staircase and other features from the 1700s, the 1926 purpose-built College of Nursing and later architectural solutions to the integration of these spaces.
Admission by regular guided tours only.
No advance booking, queuing if necessary

Website

https://www.rcn.org.uk/news-and-events/events/open-house

Iron Lung

“Metal Prisons”: Polio nursing in 1950s Belfast

  • 4 October 2018 2-4pm

“Extra iron lungs were hastily flown in … Most were not needed ... There were many deaths that weekend.” Join us to hear first-hand experiences of nursing polio in the 1950s, from the frightening and uncomfortable iron lungs in which patients spent their days, to the bonds that developed between children trapped in these “metal prisons” and their favourite nurses.

Where

RCN Northern Ireland
17 Windsor Avenue
Belfast
BT9 6EE

Royal College of Nursing Library and Heritage Centre
20 Cavendish Square
London
Greater London
W1G 0RN
England

Website

www.rcn.org.uk/library

E-mail

rcn.library@rcn.org.uk

Telephone

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.
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