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Heritage collections: Archives and museum

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In this section

The College holds significant historical material tracing the development of the specialties of obstetrics, gynaecology and midwifery.

This includes key practitioners in these fields, and the establishment of both the RCOG and the Royal College of Midwives, whose heritage material augments the RCOG’s collections.

Some highlights of the collections are:

  • the very first examples of obstetric forceps, created and kept secret by the Chamberlen family in the early 17th century;
  • sixty original notebooks of obstetrician and gynaecologist Robert Barnes (1817-1907);
  • several copies of the first printed book on midwifery, Rösslin’s 16th century work Rosengarten and its English translation as The Byrth of Mankynde;
  • the 1555 edition of Vesalius’s De Humani Corporis Fabrica.

Heritage collections research appointments and guided tours are by appointment only – contact to book.

Please suggest a number of dates as availability to Heritage services is largely limited to Wednesdays and Thursdays.

We are happy  announce the full re-opening of the RCOG and RCM Library and Heritage Collections, including:

  • The re-opening of the Museum and accredited Archive services, including research visits and guided tours
  • A return of full access to the Library print collection of specialist books and journals
  • Opening of the RCOG and RCM Arulkumaran Reading Room, featuring a portrait of the former President above the Enquiry Desk.


Appointments to access the Collections can be booked in advance via email or telephone on the following days between 10.00 and 16.00:

  • Monday – RCOG Library
  • Tuesday – RCM Library
  • Wednesday – RCOG and RCM Heritage
  • Thursday – RCOG and RCM Heritage
  • Friday – RCOG Library.

Please note that some of the Library and Archives print collection is in storage. So, wherever possible:

  • appointments to access these collections are be made at least 4 days in advance; and
  • document delivery times may be extended.

We look forward to seeing you soon.

The Research and Information Services Team

Temporary Exhibition

'Rabbits and the Rose Garden: Rare Books at the RCOG' showcases the College’s historic Rare Book collection.

Highlights include our oldest book (published 1478), a signed copy of Florence Nightingale's notes on setting up maternity hospitals and the revised 1555 edition of Vesalius's key work on anatomy: De Humani Corporis Fabrica.

Also on display are curiosities including an unusual attempt to mend a torn page (not sticky tape!), passionate promotion and a secret code!

Outside the Arulkumaran Reading and Quiet Room from now until early 2024.


Find out what the Archives hold, and read some of the fascinating stories behind the items in our collection.


Find out more about the Museum and highlights of the collection.

Developing the collections

We welcome offers of material to develop the collections of both the RCOG and RCM, which relate to the history of obstetrics, gynaecology and midwifery.

Decisions on accepting donations will be dependent on our collecting policies, including checking existing collections, the condition of the material, and whether we can suitably look after an item.

To discuss, please contact including as much information – provenance, size, images – as possible.

Family historians

If your ancestor was an obstetrician, gynaecologist or midwife, information in the RCOG Library and Archives could help you find out more about their life and work, or else we may be able to direct you to useful resources.

Volunteer with RCOG Heritage

We’re always looking for volunteers to assist us in our work. Contact us at to discuss what’s involved and current opportunities.

Heritage Policies

Heritage Collections Governance

See here for information about our Heritage Committee.

Contact us

To contact the Heritage team, please email or call 020 7045 6735 or 020 7045 6774. Please note that the Archivist and Curator are both part-time and so there may be a delay in responding to your enquiry.

Elsewhere on the site

About the College

Find out about the RCOG’s current work to improve women’s health care worldwide