Our history of medicine research service is based in our acclaimed 1964 Grade I listed headquarters, in the heart of London’s Knowledge Quarter.
Our library reading room is located on the top floor of our main building. The reading room provides you with access to our modern print items on clinical practice, medical biography and the history of medicine. We are open Monday to Friday from 10am–5pm, offering free wi-fi, desktop computers and study spaces for visitors.
Selected archive and older print items, as well as many of the museum artefacts, are on display throughout our Grade 1 listed headquarters. For details on our current exhibitions and events see here. Most of the collections are in storage and are accessible via our research service.
Registering as a researcher
If you would like to access our rare book and archive collections you will need to register as a researcher. To do this, you will need to bring with you two documents: one photographic ID (eg driving licence) and one proof of address (eg recent bank statement). You will not be able to view collections without registering first.
Your registration lasts for 12 months. If you visit again within 12 months, you wont need to provide any documentation. If you visit again after 12 months, you will need to re-register by providing up-to-date documentation.
For more information about registering, including what documents to bring, see our reader registration instructions.
How to make a research appointment
Our collections are available for anyone to use for research. Archives, museum objects, and books published before 1850 can be viewed by appointment. To make an appointment, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are usually open for appointments 10am–5pm, Monday–Friday. Please provide at least three working days’ notice of your preferred dates, so that we can confirm staff and resources are available on the day of your visit.
When you make an appointment, please be as specific as possible about what collection items you would like to see. If you can, please provide the reference numbers of any archive items, the object numbers of museum objects, or the title and author, or barcode numbers, of any books you would like to see. You can find all the above information on our library catalogue and museum and archives catalogue.
Using our collections
Our collections are irreplaceable and are being preserved for the benefit of current and future generations. They must, therefore, be treated with great care. Where surrogates, such as digital copies, are available for particularly vulnerable items, you may be required to use these instead of the originals.
When using archives and rare books:
- Please make sure your hands are clean.
- Use either a pencil or electronic device for making notes. Pens are not permitted. We can provide you with a pencil.
- Food and drink of any kind is not permitted near collections. There is a café and public seating areas in the RCP where food and drink can be consumed.
- Photographs can be taken with permission, as long as you do not use a flash.
- Please follow all staff instructions regarding the handling of archives and books. For example, you may be required to use a cushion to view fragile volumes
- When viewing items, a member of staff will be on hand at all times to assist you. Please follow their instructions.
If any items are found to be too fragile to use, you will not be able to view them, even if you’ve already made an appointment. We will make every effort to provide surrogate copies, or suggest sources that may provide the same information. For more information about using our collections see our terms of access and guide to self-service photography.
The nearest tube stations are Regent’s Park or Great Portland Street.
When you arrive, please sign in at reception and collect a visitor pass. The receptionist will be able to direct you to the reading room on the second floor (top floor) of the building. Please note that you need to go to the reading room, not to the Dorchester library.
Toilets are located on the lower ground floor below reception. Free cloakroom facilities are sometimes available on the lower ground floor. We do not have lockers for researchers. Regent’s Perk café is located on the lower ground floor. There is a public seating area on the second floor gallery opposite the reading room. Food and drink (including bottled water) may not be consumed in the reading room when using archives, museum objects, or books published before 1850.
We also produce a range of downloadable guides to support researchers. These include:
- Family history research guide for medical ancestors
- Unlocking the medicine chest - guide to original resources on the history of medicine, ideal for thesis research
- Domestic medicine in the 17th and 18th centuries research guide.