Calm before the storm exhibition

Calm Before the Storm: The Art of Photographing Lifeboats marks the digitisation of 850 glass plate negatives of lifeboats. It celebrates significant moments in the life of individual lifeboats and their volunteer crews, from starting service to saving lives at sea.

The Beken family have been photographing maritime life in Cowes for generations, creating a stunning visual record of Isle of Wight industry and RNLI lifeboats.

With the support of both the Heritage Lottery Fund and Christopher Andreae and The Scorpion Trust, this unique collection has been preserved and digitised. 

Now you can see part of this remarkable collection by visiting the The Calm Before the Storm exhibition at Poole Museum. 

Poole Museum
4 High Street, Poole, Dorset
26 January–22 April 2019
Monday-Saturday, 10am-4pm
Sunday, 12pm-4pm 

Poole Museum will also be displaying photographs from Jack Lowe’s The Lifeboat Station Project, an ambitious challenge to photograph all 238 RNLI stations in the UK and Ireland. Jack uses a Victorian process to produce his images on glass, which complements the historical Beken collection. 

If you can't visit Poole Museum, the Heritage team have selected some unique images from the collection for you to enjoy online.

Explore the collection

View images
Black and white image of Fleetwood lifeboat, Ann Letitia Russell, while on trials
North and East Gallery
From Berwick-upon-Tweed to Aldeburgh, discover the digitisation of Beken plate negatives.
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View images
Black and white image of Stromness lifeboat, Archibald and Alexander M Paterson, while on trials
Scotland Gallery
From Kirkcudbright to Anstruther, discover the digitisation of Beken plate negatives.
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View images
Black and white image of Selsey lifeboat, Canadian Pacific, while on trials
South East Gallery
From Margate to Selsey, discover the digitisation of Beken plate negatives.
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View images
Black and white image of Reserve lifeboat (Falmouth), 44-001, while on trials
South West Gallery
From Clovelly to Swanage, discover the digitisation of Beken plate negatives.
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View images
Black and white image of Holyhead lifeboat, A.E.D., while on trials
Wales and West Gallery
From the coast of Wales to the Isle of Man, discover the digitisation of Beken plate negatives.
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View images
Black and white image of Howth lifeboat, A.M.T., while on trials
Ireland Gallery
From Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, discover the digitisation of Beken plate negatives.
View images
Read stories
Black and white image of Langham lifeboat on service
Stories behind the lifeboats
Discover lifeboat stories from the Calm Before the Storm exhibition
Read stories
Learn more
Black and white picture of Frank Beken holding his camera.
About Beken of Cowes
For generations, the Beken family in Cowes, Isle of Wight, have photographed yachting and maritime activity in the area, creating a fascinating record of lifeboats and lifeboat building.
Learn more

Project funded by Heritage Lottery Fund

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