RNLI archive and library

With almost 200 years of lifesaving history, we take great pride and care in preserving our rich heritage.

Our Heritage Team based at our headquarters in Poole, Dorset, collect and care for historic objects and records in our archive, library and collections.

In addition, dedicated heritage, museum and education volunteers across the UK and Republic of Ireland give their time to keep our stories of courage and innovation alive.

Preserving our long and fascinating history ensures our story can be told for years to come, inspiring future generations of supporters and lifesavers.

Our archive

The records in the RNLI archive date from our foundation in 1824 as the Royal National Institution for the Preservation of Life from Shipwreck right through to the present day.

They are largely held at RNLI Headquarters in Poole, Dorset, and relate to the administration, key figures, crew, lifeboats, gallantry medals, fundraising activities, legacies and publications of the RNLI.

Key items include:

  • papers of Sir William Hillary
  • Committee Minutes and Agenda
  • RNLI Gallantry Medal information
  • (Recommended reading Lifeboat Gallantry: The Complete Record of Royal National Lifeboat Institution Gallantry Medals and How They Were Won 1824-1996 by Barry Cox. Published by Spink & Son Ltd in 1998.)
  • returns of service from lifeboat launches
  • press cuttings
  • photographs
  • campaign material
  • posters
  • lifeboat specifications, agreements and plans from 1850 onwards.

(Many historic lifeboat plans are also held at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, London.)

Honoured by UNESCO

The crucial part we have played in seafaring history has been recognised and honoured by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation), which has listed these early records in its UK Memory of the World Register.

Our library

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

Historic donations

  • Model Maker Dave Turner whose model lifeboats have pride of place at St Helier Lifeboat Station
    FAQ
    How do I donate an item to the RNLI archive or collections?

Visit the RNLI archive and library at:

RNLI Headquarters
West Quay Road
Poole
Dorset
BH15 1HZ