1958 The Dark Room

Staying with a theme of being inside Blantyre building, this next one needs no introduction. There was hardly a child in Blantyre who didn’t know what this room was….though this photo IS a little brighter than they may be used to.

This is the Dark Viewing Gallery in the David Livingstone Centre. Pictured in 1958, some 62 years ago, this was a popular exhibit in the museum. Being able to go into the darkness and press those buttons and see the tableaux light up in each scene was thrilling to children and adults alike!

During the recent renovation the tableaux were removed for the first time since the 1920s and cleaned, restoring where required, for they will form part of the exhibit again. When the walls behind were ripped out, it was seen that the museum builders in the mid 1920’s had used the existing bed recesses in the wall to form the inlaid galleries.


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  1. I don’t remember having a barricade in front of the tableaux, and I have no recollection of how we manipulated the scenes, just recall the awe and wonder associated with visiting and viewing the scenes and imagining what it would be like in “deepest darkest Africa” at the time, how caring of the communities to look after Dr.Livingstone the way they did and how incredibly exotic his life was. I am amazed about the set in beds being used, never imagined that! But then, they were part of our lives, we lived in knightswood terrace, just up the road and slept in “set in beds” there, normal part of life, so no wonder my imagination just couldn’t stretch to knowing that these were “set in bed” sites. I always did wonder though about the ingenuity of the set up in its entirety. Thank you so much for sharing Paul.

  2. Paul, my early recollection is that the mode of operation for lighting the tableaux was not push button but a round brass door handle that had to be pulled up on a slideway. These were not too easy to operate for a wee one.
    Does anyone else remember those handles? When were they changed to buttons I wonder? This pic being 1958, I am guessing between 1954 and 1956?
    Brilliant to use the bed recesses…”necessity is the mother of invention”.

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