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Home  >  News  >  David Livingstone Tableaux Revived in £6m Birthplace Project


David Livingstone Tableaux Revived in £6m Birthplace Project

Wednesday September 18 2019

A group of precious tableaux depicting David Livingstone's historic journey to Africa have been painstakingly restored as part of a £6.1million project to transform the Scottish explorer's birthplace, due to re-open to the public in 2020.

The polychromatic plaster tableaux, created by prominent 20th century British sculptor Charles d'Orville Pilkington Jackson in the 1920s, were carefully transported from the David Livingstone Birthplace in Blantyre to Edinburgh-based sculpture specialists Graciela Ainsworth Sculpture Conservation for the intricate conservation project.

The specialist conservation work forms an important part of the project, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Scottish Government and Historic Environment Scotland, to transform Livingstone's Blantyre birthplace into a hub of learning and cross-cultural importance.

The site is currently closed for the renovation of the centre which includes the renewal of the historic buildings, a newly interpreted exhibition which will showcase artefacts from the Trust's collection of over 3000 objects, and an upgrade to visitor facilities. The tableaux will return to Blantyre to be exhibited once the multi-million-pound project is completed and the site re-opens to the public in 2020.

There are eight tableaux in total, which were commissioned in 1927 after the Executive Committee of the Scottish National Memorial to David Livingstone was established to honour his memory as well as secure the site of his birth in Blantyre. Each tableaux depicts scenes from his life.

Pilkington Jackson, who was prolific in the 1920s working on war memorials across the U.K, including the Scottish National War Memorial in Edinburgh Castle, collaborated with architect Sir Frank Mears, who was instrumental in the project to save the building of Livingstone's birth and artistic planning of the tableaux.

After an international appeal was launched to preserve Livingstone's first home, a number of societies that had some form of connection to Livingstone sponsored the various tableaux and were depicted in the creations. For example, the tableau named ‘Truth' was sponsored by the National Bible Society of Scotland and ‘Mercy' by the Anti-Slavery Society. 

Grant McKenzie, centre manager at the David Livingstone Birthplace, said: "Although celebrated for their artistic merit, the tableaux depict David as a lone explorer, working mostly without the help of local Africans. This contradicts extensive written evidence left by the man himself, so the depictions are not a true reflection of the essential roles played by local Africans during his travels. The works very much depicts the era. We are excited to share the beautifully restored tableaux with the public next year."

To find out more about the David Livingstone Birthplace, visit




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