David Livingstone Birthplace - Museums Association

David Livingstone Birthplace

Rethinking David Livingstone

As part of a £9.1m refurbishment project at the David Livingstone Birthplace in Blantyre, South Lanarkshire, the museum has created a brand new exhibition that re-contextualises Livingstone’s story, bringing to the fore the voices previously unheard including those of his wife Mary and his African crew members.

We have explored the complex questions inherent in these matters, Livingstone’s role in these, and in particular what his legacy today actually is. We set up an expert advisory group (made up of scientist and human rights activist Geoff Palmer, author S I Martin, research associate Marenka Thompson-Odlum and digital media lecturer Kate Simpson) to support us in developing our other activities related to Black and Scottish history.

We have worked with a variety of organisations involving the Scottish African diaspora – the Association of Malawians in Scotland, Glasgow Women’s Library, the global learning centre WOSDEC, the Scotland Zambia Partnership and the Scotland Malawi Partnership. Zimbabwean author Petina Gappah has helped us to develop a new animation that gives voice to Livingstone’s companions whose voices have previously been hidden.

African objects at David Livingstone Birthplace
African objects at David Livingstone Birthplace Kat Gollock

We want the museum and parkland to be a hub for the Scottish African diaspora, and to develop further partnerships with organisations in Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi as well as working with our more local communities in South Lanarkshire. Going forward we will look into repatriation, and conduct further research on our African Collection with our counterparts in the countries Livingstone visited.

With funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund we are developing a learning programme that we will trial with local schools to support them in delivery of Black Scottish history.

We are also looking into furthering our understanding of the relationship between colonisation and climate change. These are all activities that are already funded and will be rolled out from late 2021 onwards, following a period of consultation with our partner organisations to identify their needs and how the David Livingstone Birthplace can realistically support them.