What is LEAP?

The Livingstone Online Enrichment and Access Project (LEAP) is a three-year initiative funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). The project, which launched on September 1, 2013, brings together an international, interdisciplinary team of experts with two of the largest Livingstone manuscript collections in the UK (the National Library of Scotland and the David Livingstone Centre) and the UCLA Digital Library.

The project focuses on several related goals:

1. We will integrate the sites of Livingstone Online and the Livingstone Spectral Imaging Project  under one enhanced website to be hosted, published, and digitally sustained by the UCLA Digital Library. This work as a whole reflects our commitment to developing Livingstone Online in a responsible manner that promotes contemporary access and use, while also ensuring that the site remains viable long into the future.

Not just a static archive, the new Livingstone Online will allow users to freely access and, as needed, download images of Livingstone’s manuscripts, transcriptions, and, in some cases, spectral images through a user-friendly and aesthetically engaging interface. New and/or updated critical essays and other bibliographical materials will fill out the picture of Livingstone’s life and times. We hope the scope and depth of what we provide will further broaden the study of and interest in Livingstone’s words and bring them to a new generation.

Merging of Livingstone Online sites
The existing home pages for Livingstone Online (top) and the Livingstone Spectral Imaging Project (middle) plus a bonus, sneak-peek draft of our new Livingstone Online home page (bottom).

2. We will expand the digital holdings of  Livingstone Online by adding 3,500 pages of new manuscript materials from the National Library of Scotland and the David Livingstone Centre. These manuscripts cover all the phases of Livingstone’s travels in Africa (1841-1873) and encompass a range of forms, from letters, diaries, and maps to notebooks, illustrations, and publishing records. The addition of these documents to our current holdings will enable unprecedented comparative study of Livingstone’s original words.

3. We will create a critical edition of Livingstone’s final field diaries and journals (1866-1873). These items are possibly the most comprehensive and diverse surviving collection of manuscript documents related to any single nineteenth-century British expedition to Africa. The records were posthumously edited, radically revised, and published as Livingstone’s Last Journals (1874) — a work that has been the primary source for this period of Livingstone’s life and his travels for the last 140 years. Unified, digital access to the original manuscripts from this period promises to transform our understanding of Livingstone’s last journey and the many facets of African life that he recorded during the journey.


The frontispiece of Livingstone’s Last Journals (1874)

4. We will develop the Livingstone’s Diary Outreach Program (LDO), which will adapt the broad humanities and scientific themes of Livingstone Online and the Livingstone Spectral Imaging Project for the classroom and deliver a multidisciplinary teaching program for students aged 7-14. The pilot will be run in collaboration between Livingstone Online, the David Livingstone Centre), and seven Blantyre primary and secondary schools. Ultimately, LDO will result in the production of a collection of digitized teaching resources that will be made freely available online through Livingstone Online and that will be offered for the websites of other relevant archival and education institutions.

Soon our blog entries will begin tracking the progress of LEAP, so please stay tuned!

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