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Livingstone Reimagined

Livingstone's Birthplace Museum

Photo credit - Iain Douglas


                                                                                                                    Wednesday July 28 2021

Livingstone Reimagined

Jackie Macadam reports on the reopening of the David Livingstone Birthplace today (Wednesday)


It’s been four years and £9.1 million in the making, but today the David Livingstone Birthplace reopens its doors.

In a huge regeneration project with grants from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, the Scottish Government, Historic Environment Scotland and South Lanarkshire Council, the museum has been completely redesigned – and reimagined, focussing not just on the Victorian explorer himself, but also the people who worked and lived alongside him.

Natalie Milor, Curator of the museum, explained how the crew Livingstone took with him, played a huge part in his success.

“The sheer number of people that travelled with Livingstone was surprising. By the time Livingstone reached Mosi-oa-Tunya (Victoria Falls), there were 200 men and women in his crew and actively travelling with him. When he died, there were still 65 of them.

“Knowing and discussing the role of these people shows the whole story in a new light. We can learn so much more about Livingstone’s character, the communities he encountered and the context in which he was operating by discussing the crew. Researching the names and roles of Livingstone’s crew in the past has been very challenging with scholars having to undertake in depth international research to consult Livingstone’s letters and diaries which are scattered all over the world. Now, with resources such as Livingstone Online, the process of finding information about the crew is so much easier.”

The reimagining of the museum, as well as the added space the refurbishment has provided, has given the chance for the stories of these others to be told, alongside Livingstone’s.

“With our 26 new showcases we have been able to vastly increase the number of objects on display. We are able to show things like the amount of trunks and supplies Livingstone travelled with which naturally led to discussions about the crew he depended on to help carry them. We were also able to dedicate a whole showcase to the newly conserved objects which belonged to crewmembers Susi and Chuma as well as sections of a case to display the belongings of Selim Hishmeh, Henry Morton, Stanley’s translator, who later lived and died locally in Lanark. The increase in physical space as well as having the time to research these figures and the funds to properly conserve and mount these items means we have been able to display them together for the first time.”

“Through key objects in the collection and interactives, the stories of the African men and women in Livingstone’s crew will be featured for the first time as part of the Museum’s new exhibition. The display aims to highlight marginalised histories relating to Livingstone’s story and present the interconnected role of Livingstone’s crew in the success of his explorations, the return of his body after his death and his ongoing legacy.” She said.

Grant McKenzie, Director of David Livingstone’s birthplace, said of the reimagining: “The Museum features a dedicated new display to Livingstone’s leading crew members from Southern Africa, Abdullah Susi who was from today’s Mozambique and James Chuma, from today’s Malawi. Also presented will be the diary of Jacob Wainwright, born near Lake Nyasa in East Africa, the youthful and highly literate crew member who played a prominent role in Livingstone’s story and particularly his death, being instrumental in helping to transport Livingstone’s body and possessions back to the UK. Alongside these individual stories, the Museum will examine the wider roles and responsibilities of Livingstone’s extensive crew in his many missions. A key feature is the Legacy room in the exhibition, which presents the impact Livingstone continues to have on the Sub-Saharan countries that he visited in his lifetime. A series of talking head interviews with individuals from Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi and Scotland, created in created in partnership with Scotland Malawi Partnership (SMP) is featured.”










Lily Musk - Wednesday, July 28th, 2021

“I am thrilled to hear that Livingston’s support team are being recognised.
Along with my late husband Dr Chad Musk I spent almost ten years at Chitambo which makes me especially interested.

All good wishes for your work.”

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