Case Study:
Royal National Lifeboat Institution “The Lifeboat”

The RNLI has for more than 150 years produced a journal, called The Lifeboat, recording the activities of this internationally famous charitable institution.

The RNLI has a complete archive of the original journals, including the very first issue from 1852, stored at the charity’s headquarters in Poole, Dorset.

This archive has always been available for access by historians, lifeboat enthusiasts or, indeed, anyone with an interest in the development of this great Institution. Regrettably, not every such interested person is able to make the journey to Poole. And of course, old documents are fragile, so historically valuable materials cannot be easily transported to the interested reader - even if it were desirable to do so.

Moreover, the archive’s custodians were in any case increasingly concerned about the delicate state of some of the issues, in particular the very earliest, as one might expect. So, in order to maximize the both the accessibility and the long-term security and integrity of the collection, the RNLI turned to modern technology for a solution to the problems.

In 2006, the RNLI engaged SDS Heritage to convert its entire journal collection into digital format, and to make it available in faithful facsimile on a set of fully searchable CD-ROMs and DVDs. The project was successfully completed in July 2008. The digital resource covers over 570 issues, including 36 from within the war years.