David Livingstone Trust

Meet the Team: Kate Smith

2 October 2019

Kate Smith - Collections Manager

My name is Kate Smith and I am the Collections Manager at the David Livingstone Birthplace Museum. As a heritage consultant, my role is to organise the museum’s collection and ensure objects are safe and accessible in anticipation of the museum’s reopening in 2020.

The 5,000 objects in the museum's care have a diverse and complex history. Some objects came from donors in Lanarkshire, some from Southern Africa, and some were collected and owned by David Livingstone himself. This unique collection is unlike any other in Scotland, which makes it very exciting to work with.

I most enjoy working with natural history, social history and archaeological collections. Scottish archaeology has always been near and dear to me, and I’ve participated in archaeological digs across Scotland and in Southern Italy.

Now we are focussed on the objects inside the building, and the collections at the DLBM are chock-full of taxidermy, mining tools, and even an umbrella stand made from an elephant foot. I love these strange amalgams, brought together to explore the story of David Livingstone and his contemporaries.

The collection is an incredible vehicle to discuss different social issues and themes important to Scotland including history, science, theology, and contemporary politics. The DLBM collection can and will reflect contemporary society as it continually evolves, rather than solely reflect past achievements.

One of my main goals as part of the Birthplace Project is to future-proof the museum collection to ensure the objects remain safe, accessible, and therefore relevant to future visitors and researchers. To do this, lots of work has gone into re-numbering and cataloguing the collection. T his is done because the museum's collection, which came into being in the 1920's, has many instances of duplication and human error. This is quite typical of older museums! As part of this project I have the opportunity to address and fix these issues, working item-by-item through the entire collection for the first time in the museum’s history.

I really enjoy museums for their unique quirks and issues. No one is exactly the same as another. The same way I collected stones as a child and compared them with my friends’, now I work with protected collections of objects and compare them with those in other museums to figure out just how special they are.

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