The life and achievements of one of Scotland’s most famous explorers are the subject of a new exhibition, Dr Livingstone, I Presume?, opening on 23 November at the National Museum of Scotland
Raising the curtain on a national celebration of the 200th anniversary of Livingstone’s birth (19 March 2013), the exhibition of around 100 objects draws together a wide range of artefacts, documents and artworks with a personal connection to Livingstone in one place for the first time.
Livingstone himself collected material for the collections of what is now National Museums Scotland, and examples on display will include a weaving loom, mineral samples and African artefacts. As well as objects from National Museums’ own collections, there will be loans from a wide range of institutions, including the David Livingstone Centre, the Royal Geographical Society, Glasgow Museums and the National Library of Scotland and private individuals.
Highlights include, on loan from the Royal Geographical Society, the hats reputedly worn on the occasion of the famous meeting between Livingstone and Henry Morton Stanley, the journalist working for the New York Herald, who tracked across Africa in pursuit of the missing Scot and, on finding him, uttered the immortal phrase which gives the exhibition its title. There will also be the tools of his trades, both as a missionary and an explorer. Poignant evidence of Livingstone’s first-hand observation of the slave trade that he so vehemently opposed is seen in the form of collars and chains that he himself removed from African slaves.
This exhibition traces his life story from humble beginnings to national hero. From his early working-life in a cotton mill to studying medicine and divinity and becoming a missionary in Africa, as well as the legacy which has led to strong modern-day links between Scotland and Malawi.
Livingstone had a vision to end the slave trade and to open up Africa to Christianity and lawful commerce. He was the first European to cross Africa from west to east and, while he made few converts to Christianity, his success as an explorer and his work as an abolitionist secured him a lasting reputation.
Minister for External Affairs and International Development, Humza Yousaf, said “Dr David Livingstone was one of Scotland’s greatest explorers who made an important contribution to our understanding of the world. Doctor Livingstone, I Presume? tells the story of this great man and his considerable achievements, and is the first in a series of events to mark the bicentenary of his birth in 2013, our Year of Natural Scotland.”
Sarah Worden, Curator of African Collections at National Museums Scotland said, “Through Doctor Livingstone, I Presume? we’re delighted to bring a new focus to the man, the myth and his legacy. This exhibition brings together exciting new research, National Museums’ spectacular African collections, and Livingstone’s personal possessions to recount some of the epic exploration and achievements which led to his rise to celebrity in Victorian Britain.”