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How Was The Collection Acquired?

We hold approximately 6,000 in our collection, each one cared for in accordance with best practice museum standards. We hold many objects relating to David Livingstone, Blantyre and the Blantyre Cotton Works, plus items of African origin.

Through our historically significant collection, we can tell the story of Livingstone and learn the history that Scotland shares with the many Central and Southern African countries that Livingstone lived and worked in. We also hold objects that testify to the history and brutality of the East African Slave Trade and show the social and political impacts of 19th Century missionary work, imperialism and colonialism.

Historic issues with the Museum’s documentation mean that we do not know the source of many objects in our collection. We do know that many objects were donated following an open call for objects when the museum was founded in 1929. Many objects were donated by Livingstone’s descendants, organisations Livingstone was affiliated with, as well as the local Blantyre community. A large part of our collection was also donated by people with no direct link to Livingstone, but who lived and worked in various African countries.

It is likely that many objects of African origin in our collection were acquired by their original owners through trade networks, colonial offices, and missionary work. In many cases, the information about the communities who made and originally owned these objects has been lost.

Have you considered repatriating any of the Museum’s objects?

Yes. We have started the process of carrying out systematic research on the objects that we hold in our collection by using the documentation we do have, in addition to research into the communities who likely once made and used the objects.

We continue to improve and update our exhibition and museum interpretation as we learn more about our collection and engage with communities and international partners. This is an ongoing commitment, as outlined in our organisational our organisational values.

You can read more about the The Collection if you wish.


We are very grateful to our key funders the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Historic Environment Scotland and the Scottish Government for their support in helping us deliver the Birthplace Project.

National Lottery Heritage Fund
Scottish Government
Historic Environment Scotland
Note: Please note that David Livingstone Birthplace (and the David Livingstone Trust) is no longer part of National Trust Scotland (NTS). NTS members will therefore no longer receive discounted/free entry to the Birthplace Museum.

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