The Livingstone Museum is the largest and the oldest museum in Zambia, established in the 1934 as the David Livingstone Memorial Museum and was located in the old Magistrate’s Court building.
In 1937 it moved to the United Services Club building. In 1939, The Rhodes-Livingstone Institute was started and incorporated with the David Livingstone Memorial Museum. In 1939 the collection was expanded to include relics of Cecil Rhodes and the British South African Company. In 1946, the Museum and the Institute were separated and the Museum’s name changed to the ‘Rhodes-Livingstone Museum’.
In 1945, fund-raising for a Museum building started. Work on the building started in 1949 and was completed in 1950. It was designed by Major W J Roberts in Spanish style. Jock Millar, former mayor of Livingstone, requested that Harry Susman donate a ‘four-faced’ tower clock to the museum, but before it was unveiled in the museum, Susman died. The museum was officially opened in 1951.
In 1956 the museum was a trustee, along with National Monuments Commission of Northern Rhodesia (later the National Museums Board) and the Wenner-Gren Foundation, of the excavation of the Kalambo Falls Prehistoric Site.
In 1960 the museum recreated villages from five ethnic groups to give visitors a sense of traditional tribal life and to present the “way of life during the bronze and iron age.” In 1963 a research wing was added to the museum building to provide workspace and storage rooms for Archaeology, Ethnography and History. In 1966 a Natural History Wing was added. The name of the Museum changed from the Rhodes-Livingstone Museum to its present name of the Livingstone Museum in 1966.
The museum started publishing Occasional Papers from 1948 but published the 16 papers in 1967 as a new series titled Zambian Museum Papers, based on extensive research of Zambia’s prehistory, history, ethnography and natural history. These papers were authored by specialists in each field. The papers provide substantial information on each of the large number of exhibits systematically displayed in the museum with labels.
In 2003 the buildings were renovated with funds from the European Union. Over the years, the museum has been a trustee of numerous archaeological expeditions in Zambia. In 2005, a statue of David Livingstone was erected in front of the museum in memory as was a statue of Emil Holub, a noted Czech doctor, explorer, cartographer, and ethnographer who made the first map of the Victoria Falls region.
The museum is laid out in five galleries namely, the Archaeology gallery, the Ethnographic gallery, the History gallery, the Art gallery and Livingstone gallery.