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.
Artistic graphic of the womb

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

  • 8 May — 30 October 2019 *on now

Women have long been seen as at the mercy of their own 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.

This exhibition addresses what has been seen as “normal” for women, past and present, and why women’s health has long been considered “dirty” nursing.

Visitor information

All our exhibitions are free to visit.

Opening hours are Monday, Tuesday and Friday 10am – 4pm.

You can also view the exhibition content online.

See a list of events coming up, including the exhibition launch, as part of this series on women's health nursing.

The venue is fully wheelchair accessible.

If you have any other needs, please email us at and we will assist you wherever possible.

Suitable for

  • Not suitable for children


RCN Scotland
42 Oswald Road

Exhibition entrance photograph with 1916 furniture

The Voice of Nursing: Celebrating 100 years of the RCN

  • 4 January 2016 — 20 December 2019 *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.


Aspects of Age graphic

Aspects of Age: Exhibition

  • 11 April — 30 September 2019 *on now

As life expectancy has increased, so too have our opportunities to do more for longer: today many people travel, engage in sport, find new relationships, volunteer for charities and more well into their 80s and beyond. This exhibition and event series explores the shift from institutional to home care over two centuries of older people’s nursing, from the workhouse and asylums of the Victorian era to the hospital and care home and beyond. Technology and public health initiatives have improved the support available to older people, and changed our lives significantly. As our population ages, we ask how nursing as a profession can continue to improve the lives of those over 75?


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.
Photograph of Queen's nurses in 1930s

A History of Care at Home

  • 17 July 2019 5-7pm

District and community nursing is vital for many older people who need care in their own homes. It comes with a long history.

The history of district nursing in England dates back to 1859, when the Liverpool philanthropist, William Rathbone VI, re-employed Mrs Robinson, the nurse who had looked after his dying wife, and set up a trial in home nursing for the sick poor in the city. This 'experiment' led to the establishment, under Royal Charter, in 1889, of the Queen Victoria Jubilee Institute for Nurses, now the Queen's Nursing Institute. Join historian Dr Susan Cohen and retired Queen’s nurse Janet McGurk past and present to explore 160 years of district nursing in Yorkshire and beyond.


menopause cafe logo

Menopause Cafe

  • 1 August 2019 5-7pm

There’s no speaker and no agenda in this group-directed discussion, just the sharing of experiences, stories, and questions about the menopause. All ages and all genders are welcome to join in the conversation or just come and listen.

The world’s first Menopause Café was held in Perth in June 2017. A year later the Menopause Café became a registered charity, with cafés held around the UK and beyond. Kirsty Wark, whose BBC programme 'Menopause and Me' inspired the café, is the patron.

Menopause Café was founded by Rachel Weiss in Perth, Scotland, with the aim to increase awareness of the impact of the menopause on those experiencing it, as well as friends, colleagues and families, so that we can make conscious choices about this third stage of our lives. They are now being run throughout the UK.

Let's question, discover and talk about the menopause.

Doors open at 5pm with the discussion starting at 5.30pm.

A portable hearing loop is available for use. For full accessibility information, please see full details here:

If you have any other needs, please email us at and we will assist you wherever possible.


Glasgow Women's Library
23 Landressy St
G40 1BP

Cartoon of two older people and a heart

The Joy of Sex Beyond 70

  • 23 September 2019 6-8pm

Alex Comfort, gerontologist and author of the 1972 bestseller ‘The Joy of Sex’, emphasised that growing old does not mean desire will diminish.
Older age can be an opportunity for new and different intimate relationships, with sexual health advice high on the agenda. But does society still stigmatise sex in the over 70s? What barriers might older people face in continuing a romantic life? And how can nursing staff support safe sexual expression and intimacy? Join a frank and honest panel discussion where we talk sex and romance in an ageing population.

"It’s not always about sex. Sometimes the best intimacy is where you lay back and laugh at silly things, hold each other and enjoy each other’s company."

Suitable for

  • Not suitable for children


Historic labelled diagram of the womb

Power to the Womb'an: From period parables to menopause mysteries

  • 8 October 2019 2-4pm

Join us for an afternoon of world café discussions on women’s health, busting myths and sharing experiences on Scotland’s progress to being a period positive nation.


Thistle Foundation
13 Queen's Walk
EH16 4EA


Royal College of Nursing Library and Heritage Centre
20 Cavendish Square
Greater London

logo: Museums at Night




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.