YOU NEVER know what you're going to find when you clear out your attic and the RNLI is no different. The Poole-based lifeboat rescue service has unearthed an historic collection of more than 13,000 press photos covering many activities of the RNLI across the twentieth century.

Images include those relating to gallantry awards, the Royal Family, fundraising, RNLI buildings and offices, anniversaries, events and commemorations.

Now they are part of a digitisation project within Heritage at the RNLI which said that no one had been aware of the conditions they were kept in.

Project Officer Joe Williams said: "The collection was previously stored in unsuitable conditions in the attic of a RNLI building which was both inaccessible and largely unknown. We are now bringing the photos back into the light.

"Across 2019, the attic space has been cleared and the photographs catalogued and digitised. The Heritage team has been supported in this massive undertaking by a team of local volunteers and, for the first time this year, four undergraduate History students from Bournemouth University."

He said that each photograph, once catalogued and digitised, has been placed into archive standard storage, preserving it for the future. "Photographs have been researched and importance placed on capturing contextual information from the reverse of the prints or any accompanying documentation," he added.

Images show everything from public information displays at Charing Cross station, to the dramatic launch of the Shoreham Lifeboat, stretching from the 1920s onwards. At their centre is the people who

The ‘Forgotten Photos’ collection is now more accessible for use in a variety of ways by the RNLI and its Heritage team. The RNLI is hoping that, aside from their historical interest, the photos will help engage more supporters for their rescue work and education.

The photos are also being used for guided reminiscence sessions in the Poole and Bournemouth area. A series of sessions has been developed for a number of care homes in the region in partnership with charity ‘Alive’.