The history of medicine is the history of life and death, and we are all connected to it. Founded in 1518 by King Henry VIII, the Royal College of Physicians has spent over five centuries changing medicine and working for patients and doctors. It is our mission to engage, inspire and entertain people with the history of medicine and the importance of physicians within it.
Archive accreditation is a national award scheme, managed by the National Archives. It defines good practice and agreed standards for archive services across the UK. The RCP archives achieved accreditation in March 2019.
Museum accreditation is a national award scheme, managed by Arts Council England. It defines good practice and agreed standards for museums across the UK. The RCP museum achieved accreditation in April 2008.
As a member of these schemes, the RCP archive and museum teams are committed to delivering services within a framework of professionally recognised standards. The organisation is also demonstrating a long-term commitment to preserving the archive and museum collections which tell the story of the organisation’s role in supporting medical practitioners and shaping healthcare for the benefit of all.
Throughout our work the archive, heritage library and museum services team aims to embody the RCP values.
Sharing our past
Cultural collections are not neutral. The content, language, structures and presentation of them has been and is influenced by:
· The people and institutions who collected them
· The people and institutions who preserve them
· The economic, political and societal structures of the places they are held
In the collections of the RCP, such bias is especially centred on Britain’s highly exploitative colonial history, during which most items were acquired. The language of colonialism, racism, sexism and numerous other discriminatory ways of thinking from across the RCP’s history are embedded in the collections.
We are currently running a project to review the collections of the RCP for such biases. Relevant content will be either edited to remove the language of oppression (such as in descriptions in catalogues) or, where it cannot be removed (original text in books and manuscripts), colonial and discriminatory context will be explained.
We are also committed to publishing details of previously unacknowledged links to systems of institutional discrimination within our collections. So far we have published details of links to eugenics and the transatlantic slave trade below, as downloadable PDFs.
For more information about our wider project, see our Decolonising collections public statement, published below, as a downloadable PDF.
Preserving the present to shape our future
We welcome donations of books, documents and objects to the archive, heritage library and museum that relate to medicine. If you have an item you are interested in donating for the collections, you can find out more here.
Our current collecting campaign is to create an archive of the COVID-19 pandemic. We are asking healthcare professionals to tell us about their experiences of working through the pandemic. You can contribute to the archive here.
The RCP archive, heritage library and museum work within the RCP’s vision and values.
The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) is deeply committed to minimising the environmental impacts of its operations and is continually seeking innovative ways to improve its sustainability. We are working to improve the sustainability of archive, heritage library and museum activities, including reusing materials, aiming to identify and use recyclable exhibition supplies, and minimising unnecessary travel.