RNLI receive National Lottery funding for exciting new project

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) has received £30,100 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for an exciting project which will involve preserving and digitising a unique collection of glass plate negatives of lifeboats built in the 20th century.

The project is made possible by money raised by National Lottery players and a generous gift from Chris Andreae, an Isle of Wight resident who is much interested in local and maritime history. The collection will be preserved and digitised and then shared via a programme of events and activities.

The collection of nearly one thousand glass negatives formed part of the historic archive of the Beken family in Cowes, who for generations have been photographing the yachting and maritime activity in the area, which were transferred to the RNLI with advice from Sibylla Jane Flower, consultant on archives at Christies. As a result of this project the collection will be better cared for and better described. Most importantly, the project will create digital content that can be used to reach a wide range of audiences.

This project is a significant step towards engaging coastal communities and diverse groups across the UK with the crews’ stories of bravery in saving lives at sea since 1824. Working with photographer Jack Lowe, there will be a programme of outreach activities and innovative ways to take the RNLI’s heritage from the archive to everyone.

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. Beken of Cowes on the Isle of Wight photographed RNLI lifeboats built by JS Whites on the island from the late 19th century until the early 1980s.

Commenting on the award, Hayley Whiting, RNLI Heritage Archive and Research Manager said: “We are thrilled to have received support thanks to National Lottery players and Chris Andreae. The project will ensure the long-term preservation of a unique collection and result in innovative and exciting ways to engage the public with the heritage of the RNLI.”

Nerys Watts, Head of HLF South West, said: “Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, we’re delighted to support this project which will provide a fascinating glimpse into our maritime heritage – from coastal communities to crews at sea. As well as ensuring the survival of this unique collection, this project will give people of all ages the opportunity to get involved in exploring their heritage.”

Image: RNLI

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