The life and achievements of David Livingstone are being marked in the African city named after his Scottish birthplace, in the continent where he made his name as an explorer. A new exhibition, Dr David Livingstone, opens at Chichiri Museum in Blantyre, Malawi on Tuesday 17 September.

The exhibition is the product of a partnership between Museums of Malawi and National Museums Scotland as part of the Scottish Government-backed Museums as Agents of Change project. It will be officially opened by Malawi’s Minister of Tourism & Culture, Hon. Rachel Mazombwe-Zulu, MP.

The exhibition will feature graphic displays of Livingstone’s childhood home in Blantyre, facsimiles of documents of Livingstone’s letters and sketches and a range of Malawian objects which illustrate the peoples, places, crafts and traditions that Livingstone himself would have encountered on his travels in the region.

The partnership has seen staff from Museums of Malawi visiting Scotland and having the opportunity to learn professional museum skills ranging from staging and promoting exhibitions to object conservation and even taxidermy, and to also learn more about Livingstone’s early life in Scotland. Staff from National Museums Scotland have also visited Malawi to conduct research, collect material and are currently assisting with the installation of the new display at Chichiri Museum.

Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop said:

“It’s clear that Scotland and Malawi’s special relationship has been strengthened through the joint-working on this exhibition and through the exchange of skills between our museum experts from both nations.

“The bicentenary of Dr David Livingstone’s birth has given these professionals the opportunity to learn new talents and build their professional knowledge.”

“It is fitting that something so worthwhile has been achieved through the commemoration of Livingstone’s life and that the legacy of one of our nation’s greatest Scots continues to benefit Scots and Malawians alike, many years on from his time in Africa.”

Lovemore Mazibuko, of Museums of Malawi, said:

“We are very pleased to open this exhibition celebrating the life and legacy of David Livingstone. One of the greatest of those legacies today is perhaps the enduring friendship between Scotland and Malawi, and we are delighted that our countries' National Museums have had this opportunity to express and continue this friendship. Working together in partnership, both on the exhibition and on wider museum skills and practices, has been both a valuable and an enjoyable experience.”

Jilly Burns, Head of National and International Partnerships at National Museums Scotland said:

“National Museums Scotland’s connections with Livingstone and his remarkable journeys date back as far as his own lifetime, with several objects in our collection that he personally gathered for the national collections. The interest in sharing his story with a wide audience and improving museum practice are shared ambitions with Museums of Malawi. We both wish to provide high quality, meaningful and engaging museum experiences that celebrate our past, preserve and celebrate our related collections.

“It has been a real privilege to be able to share knowledge and experience with our Malawian colleagues and in turn to learn a great deal from them about how Livingstone is remembered in Africa. This exhibition is a key stage in our working partnership, and we hope a great many people will visit and enjoy it.”

Livingstone is fondly remembered in many parts of Sub-Saharan Africa due to his vision to end the slave trade and to open up Africa to Christianity and lawful commerce. He was the first European to cross Africa from west to east and, whilst he made few converts to Christianity, his success as an explorer and his work as an abolitionist secured for him a lasting reputation.

The 200th anniversary of Livingstone’s birth (19 March 2013), has been marked across Scotland in a series of events and exhibitions, including Dr Livingstone, I Presume? at the National Museum of Scotland earlier this year which attracted 30,000 visitors and was accompanied by a book of essays on the famous explorer.

The Scottish Government provided support for the bicentenary projects in excess of £250,000, including:

  • £143,206 to National Museums Scotland to work with National Museums Malawi on a Livingstone exhibition and skills development programme to ensure the protection of Malawi’s history and heritage.
  • £100,000 to the National Trust for Scotland, which operates the David Livingstone Centre in Blantyre, to develop a programme of celebration events, which are detailed at http://www.davidlivingstone200.org/
  • Funding for Historic Scotland staff to visit Malawi to look at ways of providing training in traditional building skills to help maintain the country’s monuments, historic buildings and heritage.

Notes to Editors

  • National Museums Scotland is one of the leading museum groups in the UK and Europe and it looks after collections of national and international importance. The organisation provides loans, partnerships, research and training in Scotland and internationally. Our individual museums are the National Museum of Scotland, the National Museum of Flight, the National Museum of Rural Life, and the National War Museum. The National Museums Collection Centre in Edinburgh houses conservation and research facilities as well as collections not currently on display.

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