Royal College of Nursing Library and Heritage Centre

Historic nursing poster
Food icon Guided tours icon Shop icon Library icon Study area icon Wheelchair access icon

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.
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?

Website

http://www.rcn.org.uk/whatson

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

Admission

Visiting details and opening times can be found on our website. Tours available for booked groups.

Website

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

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 rcn.library@rcn.org.uk and we will assist you wherever possible.

Suitable for

  • Not suitable for children

Where

RCN Scotland
42 Oswald Road
Edinburgh
EH9 2HH
Scotland

Sarah swift next of caption- wake up, slackers

Fighting for Recognition: The History of a Health Profession

  • 17 October 2019 5:30-8:30pm

Join us for the launch of our new exhibition celebrating 100 years of nursing registration.

Find out about the fiery characters who fought for nursing registration, view original nursing registers from the General Nursing Council (now Nursing and Midwifery Council) and trim your own hat to emulate a matron from 1919. Talks and displays will explore the very different histories of health and medical Royal Colleges, from midwifery to physiotherapy; anaesthesia to optometry.

Short talks from 6pm include:

A century of nurse registration in the UK

Dr Alison O'Donnell and Dr Moyra Journeaux. Alison trained as a registered general nurse. She has an honours degree in education, a Masters in Nursing and completed her PhD in 2010 at the University of Dundee. She is currently Chair of the RCN History of Nursing Forum.

Midwifery in twentieth century Britain: from regulation to reinvention?

Dr Tania McIntosh, Principal Lecturer in Midwifery at the University of Brighton. Tania is dual qualified as an historian and a midwife and has researched and written extensively on the history of midwifery and women’s health.

'Making Massage a Safe, Clean and Honourable Profession for British Women’: from Special Nursing to Physiotherapy in the early Twentieth Century.

Dr Kay Nias, Medicine Galleries Research Fellow, Science Museum, London. Kay is a historian whose previous research has looked extensively at the history and material culture of physiotherapy, massage and mechanotherapy.

Displays and Activities (all evening)

View original nursing registers with the Nursing and Midwifery Council
Trim your own hat with the Royal College of Nursing
Association of Anaesthetists
The College of Optometrists
Bethlem Museum of the Mind
Florence Nightingale Museum
Royal Pharmaceutical Society
Royal British Nursing Association collection from Kings College Archives

Suitable for

  • 18+

Where

RCN Library
20 caverndish square
London
W1G ORN

Admission

£0

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.
Tammy WhyNot photograph

The Joy of Sex Beyond 70

  • 23 September 2019 6-8pm

We welcome Tammy Whynot to the RCN, to lead a a frank and honest panel discussion where we talk openly about sex and ageing, from affection to fetish.

We open with a short performance of What Tammy Needs to Know About Getting Old And Having Sex. The show is an international, intergenerational mission to ask all the difficult questions, talk to those who really know and find out the truth about sex, and all its associations, at midlife and beyond.

A panel discussion and Q&A will follow. As Alex Comfort, gerontologist and author of the 1972 bestseller ‘The Joy of Sex’, emphasised 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?

Suitable for

  • Not suitable for children

Website

https://www.rcn.org.uk/news-and-events/events/joy-of-sex-beyond-70

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.

Where

Thistle Foundation
13 Queen's Walk
Edinburgh
EH16 4EA
Scotland

Website

https://www.rcn.org.uk/news-and-events/events/womens-health-oct-2019

self portrait painting of Bryan Chanley

The Heartland: Finding and losing schizophrenia

  • 10 October 2019 5:30-8:30pm

For World Mental Health Day Nathan Filer, mental health nurse and award-winning writer, will take us on a journey into the psychiatric wards he once worked on.
In conversation with nurse consultant and voice hearer Jonathon Slater, Nathan will share the stories of some extraordinary people on their experiences of living with the strange and misunderstood condition we call schizophrenia. Filer’s new book The Heartland (Faber, 2019) debunks myths, challenges assumptions and offers fresh insight into what it means to be mad - and what it means to be human.

This talk will be live subtitled. The talk will be followed by a drinks reception and book signing. This event is hosted by the RCN Foundation, a charity that supports every member of the nursing team as they care for patients and improve the UK's health and wellbeing.

Suitable for

  • 18+

Where

RCN library
20 Caverndish square
london
W1G ORN
England

Additional info

Accessibility

The venue is fully wheelchair accessible. There is a hearing loop in the lecture room. We can offer large print copies of presentations if requested at least a week before the event. Assistance dogs are welcome.
If you have any other needs, please email us at rcn.library@rcn.org.uk and we will assist you wherever possible. Advertised start times are when the doors open. Talks usually begin 30 minutes later. Check back nearer the time for the full programme. Where possible, we film events and put them up online. Check our website for footage of past events.https://www.rcn.org.uk/library/exhibitions-and-events/previous-events

Picture of nurse Sarah Swift and the text WAKE UP SLACKERS! The great nursing controversy

“Wake Up Slackers!” The Great Registration Controversy Exhibition

  • 17 October 2019 — 20 March 2020

After decades of campaigning by nurses, the Nurses Registration Act was finally passed in December 1919. It marked the recognition of nursing as a profession. But registration was not without controversy. Different nursing organisations clashed over stridently opposed ideas. Meanwhile, “anti-registration” views remained strong. The College of Nursing called for its members to get involved in politics by demanding: “wake up slackers”!

This exhibition commemorates 100 years of nursing registration in the UK by delving into the heated arguments that characterised the registration debate. Antagonistic and often entertaining, the theme also encourages us to reflect on the future of nursing. Is a nurse born or made, Edwardian campaigners wondered. How do we teach or examine care? And is compassion an innate trait or something that can be taught?

Where

RCN library
20 Caverndish square
london
W1G ORN
England

Additional info

Accessibility

The venue is fully wheelchair accessible. There is a hearing loop in the lecture room. We can offer large print copies of presentations if requested at least a week before the event. Assistance dogs are welcome.
If you have any other needs, please email us at rcn.library@rcn.org.uk and we will assist you wherever possible. Advertised start times are when the doors open. Talks usually begin 30 minutes later. Check back nearer the time for the full programme. Where possible, we film events and put them up online. Check our website for footage of past events.https://www.rcn.org.uk/library/exhibitions-and-events/previous-events

View our Terms & Conditions for events here. https://www.rcn.org.uk/library/about-us/library-and-heritage-centre

Website

https://www.rcn.org.uk/news-and-events/events/wake-up-slackers-exhibition

Women receiving an award

Pioneering Women for a Pioneering Act: RCN Fellows Lecture

  • 5 November 2019 5:30-7:30pm

Dr Alison O’Donnell explores the Royal College of Nursing archive to give a history of the pioneering women involved in the passing of the Registration Act in 1919, including College secretary Mary Rundle, co-founder Sarah Swift and founding member Rachael Cox-Davies. These women knew why the Registration Bill was pioneering for nursing as a profession: improving education, status, working conditions and moving towards fair and equal pay. However, a century later, some of these issues remain pertinent: safe staffing, education and the status of nursing as a profession.

Where

RCN Library and Heritage Centre
20 Caverndish Square
London
W1G ORN
England

Additional info

Accessibility

The venue is fully wheelchair accessible. There is a hearing loop in the lecture room. We can offer large print copies of presentations if requested at least a week before the event. Assistance dogs are welcome.
If you have any other needs, please email us at rcn.library@rcn.org.uk and we will assist you wherever possible. Advertised start times are when the doors open. Talks usually begin 30 minutes later. Check back nearer the time for the full programme. Where possible, we film events and put them up online. Check our website for footage of past events.https://www.rcn.org.uk/library/exhibitions-and-events/previous-events

View our Terms & Conditions for events here. https://www.rcn.org.uk/library/about-us/library-and-heritage-centre

Website

https://www.rcn.org.uk/news-and-events/events/pioneering-women

Book cover of Rituals and Myths in Nursing by Clare Laurent

Maggots to Matrons: Rituals and Myths in Nursing

  • 6 November 2019 5:30pm

From maggots to matrons, enemas to egg white and oxygen, generations of nurses reminisce about a profession steeped in tradition. Claire Laurent’s Rituals & Myths in Nursing: A Social History, (Pen & Sword, 2019) explores the history behind those rituals, challenges the more absurd and celebrates the increasing complexity of the job that is nursing. The talk will be followed by a drinks reception and book signing.

Where

RCN Library and Heritage Centre
20 Caverndish Square
London
W1G ORN
England

Additional info

Accessibility

The venue is fully wheelchair accessible. There is a hearing loop in the lecture room. We can offer large print copies of presentations if requested at least a week before the event. Assistance dogs are welcome.

If you have any other needs, please email us at rcn.library@rcn.org.uk and we will assist you wherever possible. Advertised start times are when the doors open. Talks usually begin 30 minutes later. Check back nearer the time for the full programme. Where possible, we film events and put them up online. Check our website for footage of past events.https://www.rcn.org.uk/library/exhibitions-and-events/previous-events

View our Terms & Conditions for events here. https://www.rcn.org.uk/library/about-us/library-and-heritage-centre

Website

https://rcn.org.uk/news-and-events/events/maggots-to-matrons

Fenwick Suffrage: Women protesting for suffrage

Activism, Nursing and Women’s Rights: Then and Now

  • 26 November 2019 5:30-7:30pm

The early twentieth century was an important time for nursing activism. Nurses were involved in the campaign for women’s suffrage in 1918, and the introduction of nursing registration in 1919. For the 100th anniversary of registration, hear from two experts on the history of women’s rights. RCN President Anne Marie Rafferty explores the history of nursing activism, especially those nurses involved in the suffrage campaign. Helen Pankhurst – great-granddaughter of suffragette leader Emmeline Pankhurst and a leading women's rights campaigner – charts how women's lives have changed over the last century and offers a powerful and positive argument for a new way forward.

Where

RCN Library and Heritage Centre
20 Caverndish Square
London
W1G ORN
England

Additional info

Accessibility

The venue is fully wheelchair accessible. There is a hearing loop in the lecture room. We can offer large print copies of presentations if requested at least a week before the event. Assistance dogs are welcome.

If you have any other needs, please email us at rcn.library@rcn.org.uk and we will assist you wherever possible. Advertised start times are when the doors open. Talks usually begin 30 minutes later. Check back nearer the time for the full programme. Where possible, we film events and put them up online. Check our website for footage of past events.https://www.rcn.org.uk/library/exhibitions-and-events/previous-events

View our Terms & Conditions for events here. https://www.rcn.org.uk/library/about-us/library-and-heritage-centre

Website

https://rcn.org.uk/news-and-events/events/activism-and-rights

Nursing students around baby and teacher

The value of care: Women’s work and emotional labour

  • 29 January 2020 5-7pm

Nursing “is essentially women’s work” wrote a journalist in the Yorkshire Observer in 1919, just before the introduction of registration, “It is truly a labour of love, for their hours are long and their work demands the best that is in them, while the remuneration is comparatively low.” This link between low pay, vocation and women’s work has dogged nursing for over a century. Join a panel of historians, nurses and social scientists to explore why nursing remains undervalued in terms of status and pay, and how we might change this for future generations of health workers.

Where

RCN Library and Heritage Centre
20 Caverndish Square
London
W1G ORN
England

Additional info

Accessibility

The venue is fully wheelchair accessible. There is a hearing loop in the lecture room. We can offer large print copies of presentations if requested at least a week before the event. Assistance dogs are welcome.
If you have any other needs, please email us at rcn.library@rcn.org.uk and we will assist you wherever possible. Advertised start times are when the doors open. Talks usually begin 30 minutes later. Check back nearer the time for the full programme. Where possible, we film events and put them up online. Check our website for footage of past events.https://www.rcn.org.uk/library/exhibitions-and-events/previous-events

View our Terms & Conditions for events here. https://www.rcn.org.uk/library/about-us/library-and-heritage-centre

Website

https://www.rcn.org.uk/news-and-events/events/the-value-of-care

A document with the title ' 100 nursing scandals'

Struck Off! The GNC Disciplinary Committee 1922 – 36

  • 5 February 2020 4pm-5:30am

When the General Nursing Council was formed after the Nurses Registration Act, one of their roles was to determine when and why a nurse might be removed from the register. This turned out not to be an easy matter, and the discussions of the committee reveal how essential certain personal and moral traits were thought to be to nursing practice in this era. From divorce courts to gambling shops, Sarah Chaney explores the aim of a small number of matrons to “purify the profession” in this era.

Tea, coffee and cakes are available in the lecture room from 3.45 and the talk starts just after 4pm.

To book via email: fhsc.histsoc@chester.ac.uk or phone 01244 512095.

Where

Riverside Building
University of Chester
Castle Drive
CH1 1SL

Website

https://www.rcn.org.uk/news-and-events/events/struck-off-the-gnc-disciplinary-committee

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

logo: Museums at Night

Website

http://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.
advertisement