National Museum, Colombo
Situated at Sir Marcus Fernando Mawatha, Colombo 7. The first Public Museum was established in Sri Lanka in 1877 during the period of colonial governor Sir William Henry Gregory. Best known for its collection of artifacts, antiques and objects d’art displaying the cultural heritage of Sri Lanka. It includes the national treasures and artifacts from all parts of the island including the crown and throne of the last Kandyan king. A section of the first floor houses the Puppetry and Children’s Museum. It also houses a library with a collection of about 500,000 books, including very valuable and rare ones and more than 4,000 ancient ola (palm leaf) manuscripts.
The museum is the largest museum of Sri Lanka and preserves national treasures and artifacts of the country, and it is placed in a majestic two storied building built in the Italian style. The Museum is also a popular venue for lectures, film shows, and seminars showcasing the culture, history and national heritage of Sri Lanka for the diffusion of knowledge.
Opening Hours: From 9am to 5pm daily.
National Museum of Natural History
Situated on the same premises as the Cultural Museum described above. Also accessible from Ananda Coomaraswamy Mawatha, Colombo 7. Displays the Natural Heritage of Sri Lanka. The fauna, i.e. mammals and birds, are displayed in dioramas. There are sections on Applied Botany, Geology and Fossils and the Natural Environment. In the Discovery Room one finds the mounted skeleton of an elephant and a scale model in relief showing the topography of a section of Sri Lanka.
The entomology division of the Department of National Museums maintains a collection of over 95000 dry mounted insect specimens in storage cabinets and over 5000 wet preserved insect specimens in alcohol.
The Dutch Period Museum
The old “Dutch House” on Prince Street, Pettah (Colombo 11) which houses this museum was built in the latter part of the 17th century and was initially the residence of Count August Carl Van Ranzow, along with five other houses of the elite. Today, the sides of the street are choc-a-block with boutiques and stores of Moslem traders. The restoration of this building commenced in 1977 and was completed in 1981. The museum was opened to the public in 1982. This building embodies the unique architectural features of a colonial Dutch town house. The museum displays the Dutch legacy with artifacts such as furniture, ceramics, coins, arms, etc. and vividly portrays facets of contemporary life and culture.
The National Maritime Museum, Galle
Located within the Fort of Galle in a colonial Dutch warehouse with imposing pillars, this museum displays the fauna and flora of the sea and the surrounding environment. This is a little known National Maritime Museum established in 1992. Artifacts consist of preserved material and scale models of whales and fishes. Generally, all the known resources of the sea are covered. The museum also shows, in diorama form with life size models, the traditional methods of fishing. Some artifacts of underwater archaeology are on display. An interesting experiment is the “walk-into-the sea” diorama, showing natural coral beds, sea grass beds and deep-sea fishes. Finally, one leaves the museum seeing the causes of sea pollution and coast erosion and methods used to combat these problems. Open daily from 0900 Hrs - 1700 Hrs.
Other interesting exhibits include fishing vessels commonly used by Sinhalese fishermen from Chilaw to Hambantota which is called an oruva (oruva made of a single block of wood) or dug-out out-rigger canoe. Also a fine model of a Dutch Staaten Jacht donated by the city of Velsen in Holland which was recently ‘twinned’ with Galle is on display.
Weera Puran Appu Museum
Housed at Weera Puran Appu Vidyalaya, New Galle Road, Moratuwa. This museum exhibits items in relation to the life and times of this great hero, who fought the British against unfair levy of taxes and injustice and laid down his life in defence of his country.
Veera Puran Appu originally Veera Hennedige Francisco Fernando was born on the 7th of November, 1812 in Moratuwa and was executed by the British on the 8th of August, 1848 in Kandy. A mass movement against the oppressive taxes introduced by the British government was developing. On the 1st of July, 1848, licence fees were imposed on guns, dogs, carts, shops and labour was made compulsory on plantation roads, unless a special tax was paid. Since there was no leader for people, they rallied round Puran Appu. Governor Torrington immediately declared Martial Law on 29 July 1848 in Kandy and on 31 July in Kurunegala. Puran Appu was taken prisoner by the British troops and was executed on 8 August.
Housed in the Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall, Bauddhaloka Mawatha, Colombo 7, the museum contains photographs, objects and documents portraying the life and times of the late Prime Minister, S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike. Visitors can listen to recordings of some of his famous speeches. Open daily except Mondays and full moon days from 0900 Hrs. to 1600 Hrs. For special arrangements contact: Curator, Bandaranaike Museum, Tel: 691139.
The Archaeological Department has established Archaeological Site Museums in the ancient cities of Anuradhapura, Isurumuniya, Mihintale, Veheragala, Vavuniya, Jaffna, Sigiriya, Kandy, Dedigama, Yapahuwa, Panduwasnuwara, Kotte, Matara (Star-Fort), Deegavapiya and Kataragama. Tourists may visit these museums free of charge, but those wishing to take photographs must obtain a permit from the Director General of the Dept. of Archaeology, Sir Marcus Fernando Mawatha, Colombo 7. Notably, permits are necessary to photograph monuments at certain archaeological sites. Archaeological museums are open daily (except Tuesdays) from 0800 hrs to 1700 hrs, and some are closed on public holidays as well.
The Art Gallery at Dr. Ananda Coomaraswamy Mawatha, Colombo 7 caters largely to conservative tastes.
The Lionel Wendt Art Gallery at Guildford Crescent, Colombo 7, displays contemporary paintings. Kalagaraya, the permanent art gallery of the Alliance Francaise de Colombo at 54 Ward Place, Colombo 7 displays a representative collection of contemporary art. The Sapumal Foundation Gallery at 32/4 Barnes Place, Colombo 7 is open on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays between 1000 hrs.-1300 hrs. It displays and sells Sri Lankan paintings from 1920 onwards.
The Serendib Gallery at 36 1/1 Rosmead Place, Colombo 7, has been in the forefront of promoting and sponsoring Sri Lankan Art for the past four decades. Visitors may see and purchase a variety of valuables such as Rare Books on Ceylon, Ancient Lamps, Antiquarian Prints and Maps, Collectables, Paintings, Mediaeval Sinhalese artifacts, and colonial furniture.