A Year as Trainee at the David Livingstone Birthplace: Lara Lasisi
My name is Lara Lasisi. For the last year I have worked as a trainee at the David Livingstone Birthplace Museum.
I am part of the Yoruba community group who reside in South Western Nigeria. The Yoruba people are known for our dress sense, arts and culture. Music also holds a special cultural important to my people with the Yoruba drumming technique having been adopted across the world.
My traineeship was organised through the Next Step Initiative’s Ethnic Minority Career Museum & Built Environment Heritage Programme 2019 . I was one of the 16 African and Caribbean individuals selected for the programme which aimed to increase diversity in heritage sector by training trainees to become museum professionals.
I started my journey with the Next Step Initiative as a volunteer. My volunteering role focused on organising different workshops on social enterprise and employability topics. Through my volunteering, I witnessed how members within the African, Caribbean and Black and Ethnic Minority communities acquired the knowledge, skills and experience necessary to shape a sustainable future in Scotland and forge a sense of belonging.
Through this experience I learnt about the traineeship which I started in April 2019. My traineeship based at the David Livingstone Birthplace Museum focused on three main areas: Collection and conservation, community engagement and research.
Collections and conservation: A significant portion of my traineeship was centred on collections and conservation. I learned how museums manage their collections according to best practice and accreditation standards. I learned to catalogue objects, when unique identification numbers are assigned to individual objects within a collection. This number is attached to a computer record which is created on the Museum’s collections management system, Modes. The record is filled with relevant accompanying documentation, photographs and condition assessments.
Throughout my traineeship, I also gained a number of object conservation skills. I attended training and undertook practical experience on the conservation of wood, object packing and object handling. I was responsible for safeguarding the collection from pests and I spent time shadowing a paintings conservator.
Community Engagement: Throughout my traineeship I have played a key role in the Museum’s community engagement plan. I attended the Lanarkshire Family History Fair, a workshop with the Association of Malawians in Scotland and I presented at Museums Galleries Scotland’s Decolonising Your Museum workshop. Over the year, the event I enjoyed attending the most was the Blantyre Summer and Christmas Gala Days, which was a very colourful carnival. I created networks with the Museum’s local audience and the other stallholders.
Research: During my traineeship, I also undertook a substantial independent research project. My research focused on the use of medicine during Livingstone’s second expedition to the Zambezi. For this project, I collated a timeline of medical-related events over course of the Expedition. I also did in-depth research on tropical medicine and researched related objects in the Museum’s collection.
The first object I researched was a pocket surgical case which belong to Livingstone. This case contained a range of knives used for surgery on varicose veins and haemorrhoids, tweezers and needles used for suturing, or passing a ligature around an artery as well as a thermometer.
I also researched the Museum’s bottle of Livingstone’s Rouser which Livingstone invented to treat malaria. The Rousers’ ingredients include: resin of jalap, rhubarb, calomel and quinine. Livingstone tested the pill format later but administer Rousers during the Zambezi Expedition as a tonic by boiling the ingredients. This tonic was prescribed once symptoms had already started. The tonic sometimes helped people recover but their ability to fight the disease depended on the existing state of their health.
Over the whole year I have developed several skills. As well as the experience outlined above, I developed an understanding of how to communicate effectively with volunteers, community members and partner organisations. I have also gained experience presenting to a range of audiences and improved my IT literacy.
My twelve-month traineeship at the museum has been one of the best and most interesting projects I have been involved in. I have worked closely with the Museum’s small team and have been given the opportunity to learn and build transferable skills. Overall, I believe training programmes, like this one, succeed in breaking barriers and building a sense of belonging. Through this programme I have been able to share my opinion and beliefs about the way the Museum is run in a way which, I hope, will enhance the future experiences of other African diaspora members.
Find out more about the Sustainable Development Education Programme online.