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

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 Staff at Hampstead Hospital in the 1918-19 flu pandemic

Emblems of Resilience: Nurses, ‘Spanish Influenza’ and lessons for Covid-19 (virtual event)

  • 11 August 2020 5:30-6:30pm

The image of the nurse as ‘invincible healer’ acted as calming device for whole populations during the 1918/19 flu pandemic. British nurses donned uniforms and veils, and presented themselves as both military heroines and self-sacrificing angels. Evidence from media such as newspapers, journals, novels and film indicate that people were genuinely moved by these powerful exemplars of hope and civic duty, and were thus enabled to practise a form of collective resilience.

Yet, the calm, cool and courageous image of the early-twentieth-century nurse belied the pressure she was under, and many nurses became severely traumatised as a result of their wartime experiences. These talks will explore not only the mirage of safety and control presented by nurses, but also the toll this mask of resilience took upon the human being behind it. Beyond this, it will examine the extent to which nurses were enabled to recover from the trauma they experienced, and what we can learn from this regarding the impact of the 2020 COVID-19 Pandemic.

This event explores new research by speakers Christine Hallett, Olivia Gordon and Amanda Gwinnup (University of Huddersfield), with reflections on contemporary experiences by historian and healthcare assistant Kelly Swaby.

Website

https://emblemsofresilience.eventbrite.co.uk

Coloured etching of a convalescing woman trying in vain to rouse her slumbering hired nurse: the cat scavenges her food and the candle sets light to the carpet.

Drunkenness and Misbehaviour? A Reappraisal of Nursing before Nightingale (online talk)

  • 17 September 2020 5:30-6:30pm

On the same day in 1791, the sister, nurse and helper in Luke’s ward St Bartholomew’s Hospital were all sacked for drunkenness. This is what we might expect from the picture painted by Victorian nursing reformers: but a closer examination of the hospital journals reveals a more complicated picture. Women were just as likely, or more likely, to be promoted, praised or pensioned as they were to be dismissed.

In this online talk, Professor Alannah Tomkins from the University of Keele uses hospital and other records to compile data about nursing staff and unpick the life stories of a select few nurses before Nightingale. She finds a diversity of employment experiences that did not generally end in disgrace.

Please register to attend, and a link will be circulated in advance with instructions on how to join the meeting. All tickets must be booked individually.

Website

https://www.rcn.org.uk/news-and-events/events/lib-drunkenness-and-misbehaviour-170920

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.
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