ONE of Scotland's best-known heritage centres has been nominated in the 'Oscars' of the museum world.

The David Livingstone Birthplace Museum is up for Best Permanent Exhibition at the Museums & Heritage Awards 2022, following a £9.1 million revamp funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Historic Environment Scotland and The Scottish Government.

The accolades celebrate the very best in the world of museums, galleries, cultural and heritage visitor attractions worldwide.

The small and independent David Livingstone Trust, which owns and manages the museum, is Scotland’s only nomination in the category.

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The newly reopened facility, located on the site of the former Cotton Works in Blantyre, Lanarkshire, where David Livingstone was born and raised, now offers visitors a more in-depth perspective on the explorer's achievements and failures as well as a deeper understanding of marginalised histories and Scotland’s role in slavery and colonisation.


Livingstone, a Scottish physician and pioneering Christian missionary, became a life-long abolitionist and well-respected explorer in Africa. His extraordinary story transformed him into one of the most celebrated British figures of the Victorian era.

The museum refurbishment involved essential repairs to Shuttle Row and the major upgrading of the visitor experience.

The new permanent exhibition displays more than 40 per cent of the museum’s collection of more than 4,000 objects - an increase of 30% from what was displayed before.

Items on show include Livingstone’s internationally important letters and journals; the red shirt the explorer was wearing when he first met Henry Morton Stanley in 1871; and objects belonging to two of Livingstone’s most well-known crew members, Abdullah Susi and James Chuma.

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Susi - from what is known today as Mozambique - and Chuma, from today’s Malawi, are included in a dedicated exhibition of their own at the museum, while a special 'Legacy Space' presents the impact Livingstone continues to have on the Sub-Saharan countries that he visited in his lifetime.

The exhibition has been praised by the National Lottery Heritage Fund for its “richer, more representative picture of David Livingstone’s story” – particularly for shifting the focus of Livingstone from that of a 'Lone White Explorer', as was the late 19th and early 20th century interpretation, to instead highlighting the contribution of Southern and Central African crew members who made his expeditions possible and the input of the Sub-Saharan Africans he met.


Grant MacKenzie, director and trustee at David Livingstone Birthplace Museum and David Livingstone Trust said: “When many of the books about Livingstone were initially written, there wasn’t much information about the people he met and worked with in Africa. Some of them weren’t named, some of them weren’t even written about.

"We have found out lots more about them since then, and the reinterpretation of the collection is much more reflective of the real experiences Livingstone had. In the new museum we show how Livingstone successfully collaborated with the local people he met to achieve his great feats of exploration.

"We have endeavoured to represent Livingstone’s interest in aspects of the local cultures that he encountered on his travels across the African continent and give space to show the valuable friendship he made during his journeys. Wherever possible, we have tried to humanise Livingstone showing his flaws as well as his greatest qualities.”

Professor Sir Geoff Palmer, Chancellor of Heriot-Watt University and member of the David Livingstone Birthplace Museum Advisory Panel said: “History and education go together and this can be seen at this museum. Seventy years ago as a boy in Jamaica, my aunts insisted that I attended church three times every Sunday.

"The story of David Livingstone’s life as a missionary and explorer was told frequently. This helped to shape my values and my education. Therefore, it was a dream come true when I visited this museum in Blantyre near Glasgow’."

David Livingstone Birthplace Museum is now open seven days a week from 10am. Guided tours operate every Wednesday, Friday and Sunday at 11am. The tour will last around 60 minutes.