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Library Europe's largest nursing-specific collection

Royal College of Nursing Archive

The archive collections of the Royal College of Nursing date back to the foundation of the College of Nursing Ltd in 1916 amidst war and political change. The letters of founders Sir Arthur Stanley and Dame Sarah Swift describe the early years: triumphs and setbacks from 1915 into the 1920s.

The business records of the College represent its varied functions as departments dealing with the further education of qualified nurses; employment insurance and protection at work; the welfare of nurses; library services and professional practice grew and developed into what we see today. Some examples of these are:

  • The Sections of the College: Sister Tutors; Ward Sisters; Public Health Nurses; Occupational Health Nurses and others had their own ‘section’ led by professional nurses, expert in their area. They provided a forum for discussion of clinical issues in each speciality and ran career development training for nurses between 1921 and 1970.
  • The Minutes of the Council of the Royal College of Nursing, from 1916 onwards record all of the decision-making of the College by its governing body. But they also contain reports from each area of the UK and the activities of committees reporting in to Council on initiatives, research, legislation, special reports and working groups and many other developments in the nursing profession where RCN members have made a significant contribution.
  • Records of the educational courses offered, run or accredited by the College since 1921 and the innovative staff involved. These include the College’s work in conjunction with universities to bring nurse diploma and degree courses into the world of higher education in the 1990s.

Search the Archives Catalogue (Ref No = RCN*)

These records along with a wide variety of others from over 40 nursing collections are available for research by appointment at the RCN Archive in Edinburgh.