AN ARCHIVE covering nearly 200 years of saving lives at sea has been honoured by the United Nations.

The Poole-based RNLI holds documents stretching back to 1823-1854 and this rich seam of history has been recognised by UNESCO.

It will become one of just 50 archives to be listed in the UK in the past 22 years as part of the Memory of the World Programme.

At an awards ceremony Julie James, RNLI heritage manager and Hayley Whiting, heritage archive and research manager, received the special award on behalf of the institution.

“It was a fantastic evening and we’re delighted the RNLI’s rich archive is to be included in the UNESCO Memory of the World Programme,” said Julie.

“This award recognises the crucial and unique part the RNLI has played in the nation’s wider seafaring history.

“The archive describes the foundation of what was then called the Royal National Institution for the Preservation of Life from Shipwreck; the volunteer-led organisation that became the RNLI charity we know today.

“We’re delighted UNESCO has recognised the archive of the first national lifeboat institution in the world.”

Archive collections are filled with stories about people, places and events – the documented memory of humans. Nominations for the register are considered against a range of criteria including authenticity, rarity, integrity, threat and social, spiritual or community significance.

The RNLI, which celebrates its 190th birthday this year, was originally founded by Sir William Hillary in a pub in London in February 1824 and has been volunteer-led ever since.

The nine new appointments join the 41 already listed on the UK register which range from the 130 Roman curse tablets from Bath, the first ever TV-style interviews in 1916 from the Hepworth Cinema Collection and the Royal Mail Archive.