The RNLI has saved more than 139,000 lives since its foundation in 1824. Through the years, there have been countless stories of courage against a background of technological developments and social change.
The charity was founded, with royal patronage, as the National Institution for the Preservation of Life from Shipwreck after an appeal made by Sir William Hillary. Hillary lived in Douglas on the Isle of Man, and had witnessed the wrecking of dozens of ships from his home.
The name was changed to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution in 1854, and cork lifejackets were first issued to crew members in the same year.
In 1891, the first RNLI street collection was held in Manchester. The 20th century saw the RNLI continue to save lives through two world wars. The lifeboats moved from sail and oar power to petrol and diesel, and the first women joined their crews.
Recent years have seen some major developments, with the introduction of RNLI lifeguards in 2001, and the first lifeboat station on an inland waterway, also in 2001.
The RNLI Heritage Trust preserves the history of the RNLI by caring for its collections and archives that tell the story of the service since 1824.