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Archive and collections

A lifering from the SS Rohilla at the RNLI Whitby Lifeboat Museum

​Founded in 1824, the RNLI has a long and fascinating lifesaving history. And to keep our stories of courage and innovation alive, we preserve our rich heritage through our archive, collections and museums.

First minute book of the Royal National Institution for the Preservation of Life from Shipwreck, 1824

Based in Poole, Dorset, the archive holds records relating to the administration, key figures, lifeboats, lifeboat stations, gallantry medals, fundraising material, legacies and publications of the RNLI.

They include:

  • minute books and ledgers
  • a wealth of photographs
  • posters
  • publicity material
  • correspondence

And the crucial part we have played in seafaring history has now been recognised and honoured by UNESCO, which has listed these early records in its Memory of the World Programme.

Our library in Poole contains over 600 books and periodicals relating to the RNLI and lifeboats generally, including histories of individual lifeboat stations.

RNLI action man

Our museums celebrate just some of our historical events and people. And some of our historic lifeboats are available to loan.

We have some diverse collections of historic items in our store in Poole, including:

  • a fine art collection
  • a model lifeboat collection
  • lifeboat souvenirs and memorabilia.
Lifeboat Saturday programme from the 1890s

We’re proud of our lifesaving history and want to celebrate and share it with you. That’s why our archive, library and collections in Poole are open to the public.

Visits are by prior appointment only and can be arranged by contacting our Heritage Team. 


RNLI Headquarters
West Quay Road
BH15 1HZ