David Livingstone Birthplace to reopen this summer following regeneration

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David Livingstone Birthplace to reopen this summer following regeneration
David Livingstone Birthplace Exterior. Photo: Iain Douglas.

BLANTYRE.- The David Livingstone Birthplace in South Lanarkshire announced an opening date of Wednesday 28 July 2021. Home to one of Scotland’s most famous explorers, the Museum will reopen to the public following a £9.1m regeneration plan. Located on the site of the former Blantyre Works Mill, on the banks of the River Clyde, the Birthplace includes a brand-new exhibition space in the historic Shuttle Row tenements where David Livingstone was born and raised; a newly refurbished shop and café, new children’s play park, and 11 hectares of free to access parkland.

The regeneration, funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Scottish Government and Historic Environment Scotland, has transformed this small independent museum and its grounds into a world-class visitor attraction. When the Museum reopens on 28 July, visitors will be presented with the 21st century legacy of Livingstone’s story, told from multiple perspectives, and discussions around the impact of European colonisation of Africa.

Caroline Clark, Director, Scotland, The National Lottery Heritage Fund said: “The David Livingstone Trust must be congratulated on this impressive project, which opens up the incredible story of David Livingstone’s life.

“With the help of National Lottery players this important museum collection, housed in the wonderful Blantyre Works Mill buildings, will inspire and inform visitors across Scotland and around the world.

“The tenacity and resilience of the Trust in driving this world-class heritage project through the challenges of the pandemic should be applauded, and we are delighted the Birthplace will be opening to visitors later this summer.”

Culture Minister Jenny Gilruth said: “David Livingstone remains a hugely significant figure to many people here in Scotland, in Africa and across the world. The extensive regeneration of his Birthplace museum, supported by £1.89 million in Scottish Government funding, ensures that the story of David Livingstone will resonate for 21st Century audiences. I am pleased that the reinterpretation, and the new education programme, broadens the story to reflect multiple perspectives around his work on faith, anti-racism and anti-slavery, and promotes discussion around Black history and the impact of colonialism.”

Amy Eastwood, Head of Grants at Historic Environment Scotland, said: “We are delighted to support the David Livingstone Centre Trust with funding through our Historic Environment Repair Grant for the David Livingstone Birthplace project.

“The work which has been carried out with HES support will conserve the historic building and revitalise the museum. The wider project will also provide the local community with improved outdoors spaces in the surrounding park and woodlands.”

Livingstone (1813-1873) was a Scottish physician and Christian missionary with the London Missionary Society. From his humble beginnings working at the Blantyre Works Mill, he became a life-long anti-slavery campaigner, abolitionist, and well-respected explorer in Southern and Central Africa. He is considered to be of great international importance in terms of his contribution to science, exploration, faith and humanitarianism, and his writings provide a complex body of knowledge that is still being studied today.

When the Museum reopens, more of its internationally significant collection will be on show as well as reinterpreted displays that reflect the multiple perspectives of Livingstone’s legacy:

● For the first time, fifty objects of African origin highlighting both parts of Southern and Central African culture as well as colonial history will be on display, selected by Livingstone and African collections’ experts alongside other key items relating to Livingstone’s life; the book collection he used to educate himself as a young boy at the Mill and the red shirt Livingstone is supposed to have been wearing when he met Stanley (“Dr Livingstone I presume?”)

● Displays and interactives throughout the exhibition will tell the story of Livingstone’s wider crew of men and women instrumental to his expeditions From his wife, Mary Moffat and the well-known figures of Sechele I, Susi, Chuma and Wainwright, to those unnamed individuals who nevertheless played vital roles.

● Produced in partnership with the Scotland Malawi Partnership (SMP), a video series featuring individuals connected to Livingstone will discuss his ongoing legacy as it relates to faith, to anti-racism, the story of Africa and his impact on colonialism.

● The newly restored Pilkington Jackson Tableaux sculptures, commissioned for the Museum’s original opening in 1929 and created by British sculptor Charles d’Orville, will be presented following extensive restoration. Depicting eight scenes from Livingstone’s life, the stories of the individuals featured at the fringes of the depictions will come to life in a new display. Scripted by celebrated Zimbabwean author, lawyer and Livingstone scholar Petina Gappah, they will illustrate the often unrecognised contributions made by Livingstone’s crew towards his explorations.

Grant MacKenzie, Interim Director at the David Livingstone Birthplace said: "We are delighted to welcome visitors back to the David Livingstone Birthplace this summer to explore the life of David Livingstone. Through our reimagined galleries and programmes, visitors will be able to discover the many aspects of this world famous adventurer and companion, and the untold stories of the extraordinary men and women who are instrumental to his legacy."

The redesigned education and workshop space will support a programme of community and partnership engagement including learning programmes, tours and family activities. This programme aimed at schools and families will address contemporary issues of sustainability and global citizenship, placing Livingstone’s legacy central to today’s discussions around Black history, cross-cultural understanding, and anti-racism.

In addition to the new exhibition in the main Shuttle Row tenements, the Museum’s shop and café have also been refurbished and will open to the public, along with the new children’s playpark, on Thursday 1 July. The café and surrounding parklands will be free to access and will open early for dog walkers and early risers.

The David Livingstone Birthplace exhibition space will operate from April to December, with annual passes and day tickets both available.

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