Stepping into Livingstone's shoes to see the world through his eyes
David Livingstone was one of the most venerated men of his time. In a true rags-to-riches story, he was born in 19th-century Scotland into a family of cotton workers before going on to dedicate his life to working as a medical missionary in Africa. He died in 1873 and was buried as a national hero in Westminster Abbey. Though Livingstone was once one of the most celebrated men in the British empire, his legacy has since been re-evaluated in light of changing cultural, social and political attitudes. In the process, a more balanced view of the Scotsman has come to the fore.
We worked with the David Livingstone Trust to redevelop, reinterpret and revive the David Livingstone Birthplace museum. Located in the former textile mill where he was born, the renewed museum is a place to be inspired by Livingstone, to learn about the place, people and experiences that shaped him and, most importantly, to form your own opinion on his life, his legacy and his role in the British empire.
A working-class boy becomes a national hero
We created an experience that brings you into Livingstone's world. You can visit the very room that he was born in, see his personal items on display and become absorbed in his writings. As you make your way through the experience, you embark on different chapters of Livingstone's life: his boyhood years, his university days, the time he spent in Africa and his legacy after death. Through each chapter, you meet Livingstone in his many guises – mill worker, explorer, doctor, missionary, abolitionist, son, husband, father. Livingstone’s own words can be heard and read throughout the experience as he narrates his life story. Interactives put you in Livingstone's shoes – unpicking clues to diagnose ailments, learning to play African instruments or navigating your way through Africa.
Each chapter of Livingstone’s life is told through a series of immersive storytelling spaces. Ambient soundscapes, setworks and graphics recreate milestone moments in his life – his childhood in Blantyre, his ‘discovery’ of the Victoria Falls, his famous meeting with Stanley.
Creating a sense of pace through the space
Our design and interpretive approach creates a changing sense of pace through the experience. The colour palette shifts from one space to the next – as the story moves from Blantyre to Africa, colours transition from monochrome to multi-coloured vibrancy. There are moments of play and energy as much as quiet reflection. In one room, you cross a river by stepping on the backs of hippos. In another, you can pause and reflect on Livingstone's legacy at an installation of a mvula tree.
The new museum is ‘the’ place to encounter the man, unpick the myth, debate his legacy and, in doing so, create new links between Scotland and Africa.
Permanent Exhibition of the Year, Museums + Heritage Awards
David Livingstone Trust