Update from The David Livingstone Centre

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It’s been a busy few weeks here at The David Livingstone Centre with several exciting projects and events taking place. The centre held a ‘Magical May hem’ event which featured several family friendly activities including a Green Man themed one that I ran. This involved encouraging the children to think about the importance of trees to both humans and animals and linking this to the close connection to nature that Pagans have had for centuries gone by. They were then tasked to create their own green man (or woman!) using natural materials and clay.

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Last week I was lucky enough to view the DLC archives with our volunteer curator, Ann who looks after the cataloguing and conservation of materials held on site. It was impressive to see the wide variety of content ranging from spears and other traditional African specimens, to more out of the ordinary items such as an umbrella stand made from an elephants foot through to the library which features texts from the time that Livingstone was here as a boy. It was great to be able to study some of the boxes with items of particular interest including the shirt that Livingstone wore when he met Stanley and the various letters written in honour of Livingstone’s discoveries.

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Last week also saw the delivery of a programme called ‘Livingstone’s Lifepaths’ which is run in conjunction with the chaplaincy teams from two local high schools. This week long event involved different classes visiting each day to take part in a variety of activities which were designed to encourage links to be made between the life that Livingstone led and the life decisions that he had to make. Links were also made between the young people’s life path choices and the decisions that Livingstone had to make in order to inform his own destiny.

Time was also provided for reflective thinking as well as creating a programme that would feature activities to challenge the young people both mentally and physically through the medium of teambuilding tasks. One such reflective activity involved the young people being tasked with noting down one thing they would like to change in their lifetime, one thing they’d like to discover and one thing they’d like to tell people. We had some profound responses as well as the more humorous ones including wanting to discover a flying car!

A project that we have been running this week is an archaeological dig focussing on the area where we believe the mill managers’ house stood. By using maps from different dates, the NTS archaeologists have been able to overlay the location of the house on a plan which shows that it was located where the children’s play area now stands. After scanning for service cables and ensuring the area was safe to dig, we positioned two small pits in the flower bed (we asked first!) adjoining the play area.

Working with a different group each day, we found some interesting items including a small silver broach, a variety of coins, a few keys and some lovely pottery. During the week, we worked with staff and volunteers here at DLC, The Criminal Justice Service team and young people from our very own Work it Out Team. The young people on this scheme are learning horticultural skills whilst working in the grounds here at DLC and have found many items whilst carrying out their duties. Their involvement in the dig this week has meant that they have been able to locate some more finds as well as identifying and contextualising some of their earlier finds through the use of maps and photographs.

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The finds from this dig will be processed in preparation for Blantyre Village Gala Day on the 21st June where I will be interpreting them to the public through hands on activities. We had much interest from members of the public during the dig and hope to explore the potential for carrying out a community wide dig on site at DLC in the future. This week has also proved useful in terms of my assessment of the scope of the site for outdoor learning and an analysis of this week’s project will feature in the strategy that I am working on.

Over the next few weeks, I will be assisting with the Outdoor Learning Event at Holyrood Park, running some Landscape Heritage themed guided walks and a stall interpreting our archaeological finds at the Blantyre Village Gala Day in conjunction with our funding partner from ERZ and planning and preparing for my two main events in July. These are a day project with Columba 1400 and a four day part residential project with a group from Liber8 who are working towards their John Muir Discovery Award.