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.
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


Wandering Womb main exhibition image

The Wandering Womb: Women’s health nursing past and present

  • 18 October 2018 — 15 March 2019 *on now

Women have long been viewed as at the mercy of their biology. In the ancient medical world it was believed that a “wandering womb” could cause suffocation and death. Menstruation and childbearing were thought to make women weaker and less rational than men. Rising above these challenges, 100 years ago, women secured the right to vote in the UK. At the same time, nursing was formalised as a largely female profession.
Since then, nurses have taken a leading role in challenging generalisations about women’s health. However, myths and misconceptions remain widespread, while medical and social changes have altered our biology as well as attitudes. Women are starting periods earlier and living longer beyond the menopause. This exhibition addresses what has been seen as “normal” for women, past and present, and why women’s health long been considered “dirty” nursing.
Open Monday-Friday, 9-7pm and Saturday 9-5pm

Suitable for

  • Any age


Pandemic Archive

Pandemic! 1000 Years of Nursing Infection

  • 1 November 2018 — 30 April 2019 *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, SARS 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.

Open to the public Monday, Tuesday and Friday 10am-4pm.

Suitable for

  • Any age


Royal College of Nursing Scotland
RCN Scotland, 42 South Oswald Road,


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.