The RCP library, archive and museum are going to stay closed for the foreseeable future as part of measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus). All our staff are working from home, and we strongly encourage everyone to follow the latest government advice and to stay at home as far as possible.
However, though our physical building is shut, you can still explore our collections online if you’re looking for entertainment, distraction or if you’re researching the history of medicine as we live through historic times.
Read 4,000 of the RCP’s historical library books online for free in the UK Medical Heritage Library (UK-MHL). It’s part of the worldwide Medical Heritage Library of over 300,000 titles. There are plenty of medical books, such as the 17th edition of Gray’s anatomy from 1909, illustrated here, or Gavin Milroy's Sketch of the operation and of some of the most striking results of quarantine in British ports (1853) illustrated above, but it’s not just medicine: natural history, literature and the arts all sneak in, too.
The books were photographed during 2015 and 2016 as part of a collaborative project led by the Wellcome Library. We’ve written in the past about some of the highlights:
- Travelling for health: the hey-day of European health resorts
- Pioneering medical women: Sophia Jex-Blake, Edith Pechey-Phipson and Annie Clark
- 19th century spiritualism and the work of psychical researcher and writer Frank Podmore
- Cardiology books collected by RCP fellow Evan Bedford
- Coughs and colds as studied by Robert Prosser White
Members and fellows of the RCP can access ejournals and ebooks provided by the RCP library using their RCP Athens account. We can try to source articles from journals not in our collection to send to you by email, often within a few hours, using our document delivery service.
We’ve been running our oral history project Voices of medicine since 2015. There are now 42 full interviews available via our library catalogue, with more in the pipeline. We’ve selected some key extracts, to give you a flavour of the collection. Hear physicians discuss the early years of renal dialysis, the horrors of air encephalogram investigations and the challenges and opportunities of coming to practice in the NHS from overseas. Why not start with this clip of former RCP treasurer, Linda Luxon, recalling medical ‘bleeps’ being introduced when she was a junior doctor, and the head of her medical firm’s rather unexpected reaction to them.
130 video interviews from an earlier project, recorded in partnership with Oxford Polytechnic (now Oxford Brookes University) between 1985 and 2002, are also available online. Head to the Medical Sciences Video Archive (MSVA) to see them.
Creative activities in troubled times
Relax for a while with our colouring books. The New York Academy of Medicine library hosts #ColorOurCollections, an annual festival of colouring in, with images supplied by libraries across the world. Though the festival runs in February, the images are available year round.
Events on YouTube
While our events programme is on hold, you can still watch videos of talks and conversations from the last few years online. Last year’s panel discussion of breathlessness has never been more relevant to medical staff or to patients, carers and families.
Learn more about plants
Outdoor spaces and gardens have never been more important as somewhere to refresh our mental and physical wellbeing (responsibly and in accordance with social distancing rules). Many of the plants that grow in them have been used medicinally in the past or are a source of drugs today. RCP fellows explain the history and science of medicine plants on the RCP garden podcast.
Step into a virtual world
Visit the RCP at Regent’s Park remotely in our virtual reality gallery of portraits. Explore a few highlights from our photographic portrait collections and learn the stories of notable women from the RCP’s history.
Last but not least…
Over the coming weeks we’ll continue to blog about RCP collections, as well as revealing what our curators, librarians and archivists are up to when we can’t get to our books, documents, paintings and objects.
Katie Birkwood, rare books and special collections librarian
As a leading health organisation aimed at improving patient care and preventing disease in the UK and globally, the RCP takes seriously its responsibility to support efforts to protect communities from COVID-19, now designated a pandemic by the World Health Organization. The RCP COVID-19 web page is regularly updated.