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Library Europe's largest nursing-specific collection


Bristol Day of Action, 1986

The Voice of Nursing: Celebrating 100 years of the RCN 

On display now at the Library and Heritage Centre until 2018

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.

View online                 Visit the exhibition


Hidden in plain sight: Celebrating nursing diversity

On display at the RCN Library and Heritage Centre until 10 March 2018

The nursing workforce is diverse, with health care workers representing a huge variety of backgrounds and experiences.  

This exhibition celebrates the contributions of some of the people whose work and lives have too often been overlooked. Here we highlight just a few of these disparate stories from the RCN collections, including the role of lesbian nurses in the First World War, BAME nurses and Deaf mental health nurses.

Visit the exhibition  View online


Defence Nursing

For Queen and Country: Nursing, Trauma and War

On display at RCN Scotland until April 2018

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, 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 exhibition tells their story.

View online     Visit the exhibition


Past exhibitions

Nurse DH Swan

A healthful form of work: The history of public health nursing

On display October 2016 - March 2017

Public health nursing has its origins in the 1800s with the rise of social reform and efforts to improve the health of the poorest in society. 

This exhibition highlights the development of public health nursing and the roles nurses have played in improving public health from the 19th century to the present day. From vaccination programmes and health visiting to sanitary and welfare reform. 

View online


The Right Sort of Women: Nursing Founders

On display March - September 2016.

Hospital matrons from around the UK, led by the diminutive but formidable Dame Sarah Swift, realised a shared vision in founding the College of Nursing in 1916. This display explores the stories behind these inspirational women.

View online

Burntwood Asylum

Out of the asylum: The history of mental health nursing

On display from October 2015 - March 2016

From institutional confinement to care in the community, mental health nursing has seen many significant changes throughout its history, with the profession following a very different path from that of general nursing.

This exhibition explores the role of the largely untrained but often hardworking attendants in Victorian asylums, to the breadth of nursing roles across hospitals and community care today.

See a taster of the display through our online timeline or test your knowledge with our quiz.

Agnes Climie

Those Who Served: Remembering First World War Nurses

On display from April 2015 - September 2015

Personal letters, documents and reports from our archive tell a story of dedication and loyalty to nursing in the Great War. Whilst the desire to serve is complex and driven by many different causes, the stories of RCN members illustrate a strong, personal commitment to professional nursing.

Wounded soldier

Front line nurses: British nurses of the First World War

On display from July 2014 - March 2015

When Britain declared war on Germany on 4 August 1914, women came forward in their thousands to play a role. Nursing was a popular route to war service. This exhibition told the journey of a wounded soldier, from the front line to back home, and the vital role of the nurse at each stage of that journey.