HE was the boy from the cotton mills of Lanarkshire who rose to become one of the greatest heroes of the Victorian age by opening up some of the darkest corners of unexplored Africa.

Now the museum established in the home town of David Livingstone is to share its research and build partnerships with the countries he visited after securing a grant in the latest round of government funding.

The David Livingstone Birthplace, in Blantyre, has been awarded £39,000£39k from Museums Galleries Scotland (MGS) for a project setting up a touring exhibition detailing the explorer’s legacy which will establish links with institutions in Zambia, Malawi and Botswana.

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Livingstone passed through all three sub-Saharan countries on his treks across Africa trying to find trading routes which would supplant those of the slave trade, as well as the source of the Nile and Zambesi rivers.


The David Livingstone Birthplace Museum

In Zambia, the David Livingstone Birthplace will work with the National Museums Board and the Livingstone Museum, in Livingstone, near Victoria Falls, on research both there and at his birthplace in Blantyre.

The project will improve interpretation at both museums and digitally, sharing best practice on collections management and supporting each organisation’s financial sustainability.

The touring exhibition will also visit Malawi, and will work with the British High Commission in Botswana to source host locations for a visit there.

It is hoped the project will broaden the reach of the museum and attract a wider audience to learn about Livingstone’s life and legacy.

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The project comes as the David Livingstone Birthplace undergoes a £6.1 million transformation, which will see it redeveloped as a new museum celebrating the story of how a poor millworker became one of the most popular Scottish figures of the Victorian era and a well known name in parts of Africa.

This new project, starting in May, will give the museum the opportunity to share its knowledge with a touring exhibition about Livingstone’s legacy.


Staff with artefacts collected by the explorer

Grant MacKenzie, project manager activity plan for the David Livingstone Trust, said: “David Livingstone was one of the foremost international travellers through his explorations in sub-Saharan Africa and the trust is uniquely placed to foster contemporary international links with the countries that he visited.

“We are delighted that the Museums Galleries Scotland grant will enable us to work with museums in Malawi, Zambia and Botswana, developing knowledge of our collections, sharing best practice and then sharing this with Scotland’s heritage sector.”

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The David Livingstone Trust project is supported by Museums Galleries Scotland’s Museums Development Fund and is one of nine projects by museums across Scotland to receive a share of just over £300,000.

The projects range from celebrating local family history through the refurbishment of a resource centre in Nairn Museum to exploring robotics in surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons in Edinburgh.

Other beneficiaries include the Scottish Contemporary Art Network, the University of St Andrews, the Highland Museum of Childhood, Dundee Museum of Transport and Culture Perth and Kinross.


Livingstone was the first European to see the Victoria Falls

Funding from MGS’s Museum Development Fund will support these projects as they look to the future through redevelopment and the preservation of collections for the next generation.

Lucy Casot, MGS chief executiveCEO of Museums Galleries Scotland, said: “We are delighted to award a Museums Development Grant to David Livingstone Birthplace to support this unique opportunity to learn from collaborative working with international partners.”