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Founded in 1916 the Royal College of Nursing has evolved into a successful professional UK-membership body and union. The College has pioneered professional standards for nurses, in their education, their practice, and their working conditions. Initially created for female professional nurses only, the College has subsequently widened membership to men, and more recently to health care support workers. In 2014 the College has over 410,000 members, and is uniquely acknowledged as the "voice of nursing" by both the government and the public.
The Royal College of Nursing Archives’ collects across all fields of nursing in the UK and some overseas. The largest and most significant archive is that of the College itself, containing records from staff offices and departments across the UK as well as from membership activities. These document social change through the professional development of nursing and labour relations as well as nursing education.
Subjects covered include working conditions, employment rights, pay, workforce information, health campaigns, practice guidelines and ethics, standards, education, military and wartime nursing, mental health, community health, occupational health, public health, health legislation and health policy.
In addition there are over 30 deposited nursing archives dating back to the 1880s. These are records of nursing organisations with which the College has amalgamated or worked closely with and include the National Council of Nurses of the United Kingdom; the Society of Registered Male Nurses, and the National Association of State Enrolled Nurses.
Over 700 personal archives dating from 1815 have been donated, typically consisting of diaries, certificates, notebooks, photographs, badges, artworks. These provide information for family history, health, leadership, hospitals, training and social history. Significant personal archives include nursing leaders Annie Altschul, Marjorie Simpson and Lisbeth Hockey.
The oral history collection holds over 700 interviews. Nurses speak on topics such as treatments, nursing practice, families, industry, war, pay, working conditions, immigration, union activity, leaders, policy, hospitals, nursing organisations, qualifications, prejudice and recruitment. Interviews include nursing leaders Dame Elizabeth Cockayne, Dame Catherine Hall, and Baroness McFarlane of Llandaff. District nursing, fever nursing and nurse education are strong themes amongst the 7 research projects donated to the oral history collection covering 1919-2008.
Significant photographic and postcard collections show a wide range of nursing uniforms, equipment and hospitals across the UK and overseas from the 1880s onwards. A small but iconic collection of 43 documents includes 28 handwritten letters written by or addressed to Florence Nightingale, 1830-1862.
Please note our historic printed collections are managed by our London library & heritage centre – see our website for more details www.rcn.org.uk/library
Our contact details are:
Royal College of Nursing Archives, 42 South Oswald Road, Edinburgh. Enquiries to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Telephone enquiries come through our London library & heritage centre on 0345 337 3368. Charged at local rate. Lines open Monday-Friday: 9am-7pm and Saturday: 9am-5pm (closed during August).
Consulting hours are 9.30am to 4.30pm, Monday to Friday. Visitors by appointment only. Please contact us in advance to arrange to see original records from our collections.