Florence Nightingale Museum

The Florence Nightingale Museum tells the story of Florence Nightingale, a remarkable figure of nineteenth-century Victorian England more often than not credited with establishing modern nursing practices. Visitors will learn all about the life and times of Florence Nightingale through a series of interactive exhibits, informative galleries, and historic artifacts. In addition to significant biographical content, the museum traces the evolution of British nursing from the Crimean War to the contemporary age. The Florence Nightingale Museum is located on the grounds of historic St. Thomas’ Hospital, within easy walking distance of the London Eye, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, and the Houses of Parliament.

Money Saving Tip! Florence Nightingale Museum is included on the London Pass, Go London All-Inclusive Pass and London Explorer Pass. If you are sightseeing in London, then you can save a lot of money with the pass.

History of the Florence Nightingale Museum

Florence Nightingale was born in—and named after—Florence, Italy, in 1820, the younger daughter of a wealthy British family. In the 1840s, she would reject her family’s expectations that she lead the genteel life of an upper-class aristocratic woman and instead begin working as a nurse. It was during the Crimean War (1853-1856) that her legend was born: Nightingale’s field work would save the lives of thousands of British soldiers throughout that conflict, and upon returning to England she would devote the rest of her own life to promoting and teaching a modern set of nursing practices. Throughout the remainder of her career she wrote thousands of letters, books, articles, and pamphlets advocating better hospital care, sanitation policies, educational curricula, and more.

The majority of the artifacts that comprise the Florence Nightingale Museum’s collection today can be attributed to the stewardship of Dame Alicia Lloyd-Still, who served as Matron of St. Thomas’ Hospital for over two decades during the first part of the twentieth century. This unparalleled collection of Nightingale-related artifacts was first showcased to the public in 1954, in honor of the centenary of the Crimean War; then again, notably, in 1970 for the 150th anniversary of Nightingale’s birth. A Florence Nightingale Museum Trust took possession of the collection in 1983, and the museum itself opened its doors in 1989, right near where Florence Nightingale’s original nurse’s training school had once stood.

Florence Nightingale Museum Highlights

The permanent collection of the Florence Nightingale Museum contains approximately 3,000 artifacts pertaining to the life, work, and legacy of this pioneering individual. Particular artifacts of note on display here include one of the iconic lamps used by Florence Nightingale during the Crimean War, the nurse uniform she wore during training school, one of her famous black dresses, and even the preserved body of her beloved pet owl, Athena.

The most recent addition to the museum’s permanent displays is the exhibit British Military Nursing in Peace and War. This powerful new presentation is found within a replica field hospital tent; it traces the history of British military nursing from the Crimean War to the Covid-19 pandemic through a combination of historic objects, taped interviews, and filmed performances by actresses playing the roles of several different historic nurses serving across the past three centuries.

Other highlights of the Florence Nightingale Museum are the Family Corner, where kids can try on a variety of nurse’s outfits from throughout history; the Letter Writing Station, which provides the little ones with pencils and paper so that they can emulate Florence Nightingale’s prodigious writing career by creating their very own message on a topic about which they’re passionate; and Florence Nightingale’s wheelchair, a mahogany-and-iron model she used when ill.

More to See and Do at the Florence Nightingale Museum

Here are a few more things of note to consider when planning your trip to the Florence Nightingale Museum.

*The Florence Nightingale Museum has a small museum shop stocked with an assortment of gifts, souvenirs, and accessories. Popular items sold here include books, homeware, stationery, kids’ toys, and jewelry. It’s also a good place to pick up a small token of appreciation for that special nurse or doctor in your life.

*The Florence Nightingale Museum is typically open Tuesdays through Sundays between the hours of 10:00am and 5:00pm, with final entry permitted at 4:30pm. Most visitors report spending between 60 and 90 minutes exploring the attraction.

*Families visiting the Florence Nightingale Museum with small children will want to partake in the attraction’s “Family Trail” experience. The specially designed Family Trail map directs children to examine specific objects throughout the museum while asking them educational questions about what they discover; it’s a fun way for the little ones to enjoy the museum. You can pick up your complimentary copy of the Family Trail at the museum’s entrance.

*A similar product is available for those parents wishing their kids to find hidden numbers scattered throughout the museum and use those figures to solve a math puzzle. Called the “STEM Trail,” it too can be procured for free upon request at the attraction’s entrance.

*On select weekends throughout the year, the Florence Nightingale Museum stages live performances that enable visitors to “meet” Florence Nightingale and Mary Seacole, another legendary nurse famed for her exploits during the Crimean War. These performances feature professional historical interpreters playing the roles of these two great women; they last about 30 minutes total and are free with your paid admission to the museum. See the Florence Nightingale Museum’s official website for more information.

Why the Florence Nightingale Museum Should Be on Your Must-See List

If you’ve got small children who are interested in math, science, and history—or dream of growing up and one day becoming doctors or nurses—then the Florence Nightingale Museum is well worth your time and attention. The museum is small but packed with informative exhibits and interactive details, making it a terrific place to stop in for an hour before or after you visit nearby popular attractions like the London Eye, Westminster Abbey, and the Imperial War Museum.