The David Livingstone Centre
Visit the David Livingstone Centre for a great day out with all the family.
For more information about how to find us, as well as opening times and prices, please have a look at our Visit Us page.
We also have a comprehensive School Programme, please Contact Us for more information.
In 2013 the David Livingstone Centre became an accredited museum in recognition of the high standard of organisation, preservation and archival recording of our collection. There are storeys of stories about David Livingstone, the famous Scottish explorer and missionary, in this birthplace museum of his life and work.
Housed in Shuttle Row, a tenement which the Livingstone Family shared with 23 other families, this historic attraction is packed with items relating to his explorations in Africa. These include journals, letters and navigational equipment, as well as dioramas of significant events in his travels. It also gives a fascinating insight into the living and working conditions of 19th-century Scotland.
Set in parkland and gardens overlooking the River Clyde, there are plenty of picturesque woodland walks in the area including along the Clyde Walkway to Bothwell Castle, making it the perfect place for a family day out.
“The David Livingstone manuscript and archive collection at the David Livingstone Centre (DLC), Blantyre, is amongst the most significant in the world... The David Livingstone Trust collection is essential for any detailed study of the life and legacy of David Livingstone and therefore should be considered of national and international significance.” David McClay, National Library of Scotland
The David Livingstone Centre’s impressive collection consists of almost 2000 objects and manuscripts. Unlike most African collections held by British museums which were taken from Africa without consent, much of our collection was gifted to the museum by the people of Africa. After David Livingstone’s death his African companions carried his belongings 1,500 miles on a journey that lasted 8 months, to ensure they were returned to his loved ones. Years later, David Livingstone’s friends and family gifted many artefacts to the Livingstone Memorial at Blantyre. Today we are indebted to David Livingstone’s African and British companions for their great efforts and generosity.
The international effort to preserve David Livingstone material continues on over 200 years after his birth. The David Livingstone Centre is a key partner on Livingstone Online, a digitisation project involving partners in the UK, USA, Belgium and Africa, which is digitising Livingstone’s manuscripts and publishing them online. We are also currently involved in a research project led by the Southern African Community Development Association, which is mapping African collections held by British museums to modern-day African countries. Our collection has attracted various other international research projects and provides a rich source of study on a number of diverse topics.
Blantyre Works Library
Blantyre Cotton Works, as with many other industrial workplaces across Scotland, provided access to free education for the impoverished working classes. The Blantyre Works Library is a rare example of an early 19th century industrial workplace library and it provides a unique insight to the enlightened environment of David Livingstone’s upbringing. Books on nature, science, theology and medicine reveal the intellectual ideas that helped shape the young David Livingstone’s independent mind.
In our collection we have 112 documents of David Livingstone’s writings including his letters, field diaries, maps and journals. We have been working with a range of partners on the academic project Livingstone Online to digitise these manuscripts in order to make them publicly accessible. As part of this project we have been able to undertake spectral imaging to reveal previously illegible writings. David Livingstone’s 1871 field diary is of particular interest both due to its form and content. Due to lack of supplies, David Livingstone resorted to using old newspapers and ink made from natural dyes, which faded over time. The 1871 field diary records his immediate account of the horrific Nyangwe massacre which he later rewrote for an international readership to provide damning evidence of the East African slave trade. Spectral imaging has enabled academics to compare this immediate diary entry with published accounts, revealing Livingstone’s use of self-censorship to appeal to particular audiences and agendas.
For the establishment of the Livingstone Memorial in 1929, British sculptor Charles Pilkington Jackson, was commissioned to create various artworks. This included a series of eight tableaux depicting Livingstone’s spiritual journey through Africa, a B-listed world fountain positioned in front of Shuttle Row and a wooden sculpture depicting Livingstone’s faithful companions carrying his body home. The creation of this sculpture was sponsored by the Bamangwato of Bechuanaland, the people of the powerful Chief Khama. At that time eight-year-old Seretse Khama was chief of the tribe, and his uncle Tshekedi Khama was the acting regent. Seretse Khama went on to become the first Prime Minister and President of Botswana.
David Livingstone developed a treatment for malaria, (containing amongst other things rhubarb & quinine) a form of which was used until the 1920s. We also have a prescription in David Livingstone’s handwriting for the ingredients of the Rousers indicating that it was to treat himself. David Livingstone also identified the link between the tsetse fly and sleeping sickness. Today, Scotland remains a world-leader in the field of tropical medicine. This ultimately stems from the work of Scottish doctors like David Livingstone and other pioneers who were active in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
A poignant artefact is Mary Livingstone's Bible which has an inscription in David Livingstone's hand "Found in mama's pocket after she died, 28 April 1862, David Livingstone". This was sent back to the children in the UK.
David Livingstone was wearing this when he met HM Stanley (1873). The meeting with Stanley is one of the most famous events in David Livingstone’s life, and the two men are closely associated in the public’s imagination. For many of our African visitors however, the two men represent the very best & the very worst in British (and other European) involvement in Africa. It is just possible that this shirt was made in the Blantyre Mills. The factory here was one of the first to make Turkey Red cloth and we know that David Livingstone asked for cloth and clothing to be sent out to him from home.