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Museums

Sri Lanka is indeed a Small Miracle, a country offering travellers with a number of unforgettable experiences. What is essentially that much more special is the country’s rich heritage, from a culture that dates back to around 125,000 BC. Numerous excavations and digs have unearthed the remnants of a colourful and sophisticated culture including stone tools unearthed date back several tens of thousands of years. The oldest trace of modern man in Asia, Balangoda Man, and the earliest evidence of steel-making in the ancient world, were uncovered here. Many of these historical artefacts and national treasures are displayed at the varied museums scattered across the island. The National Museum is in Colombo and displays a variety of ancient royal regalia, Sinhalese artworks (carvings, sculptures et al.), antique furniture, Chinaware, and Ola manuscripts (ancient parchments). Other popular museums are situated in Galle, Anuradhapura and Koggala.

National Museum, Colombo (Closed on Fridays)

Situated in Sir Marcus Fernando Mawatha, Colombo 7, it is the first public museum to be established in Sri Lanka (1877). Best known for its collection of antiques and objects displaying the cultural heritage of Sri Lanka, the museum exhibits national treasures and artefacts from all parts of the island. 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 and more than 4,000 ancient palm leaf manuscripts. Tel : +94 11 2697467-8 

National Museum of Natural History(Closed on Fridays)

Situated in the same premise as the national museum, it is also accessible from Ananda Coomaraswamy Mawatha, Colombo 7. It displays the Natural Heritage of Sri Lanka. At the museum there are sections dedicated for each area. In the Discovery Room you can find the mounted skeleton of an elephant. (Tel: 2694767-8) The Dutch Period Museum (Closed on Fridays)Situated at Kumara Weediya, Pettah, Colombo11, the old "Dutch House" in Prince Street, Pettah, which houses this museum was built in the latter part of the 17th century. It was the residence of Count August Carl Van Ranzow. Today, the sides of the streets are filled with boutiques and stores of traders. The building embodies the unique architectural features of a colonial Dutch town house. The museum which displays the Dutch legacy with artefacts viz. furniture, ceramics, coins, arms, etc. - portrays facets of contemporary life and culture. 

Kandy National Museum (Closed on Fridays & Saturdays)

Situated behind the Temple of the Tooth, in a building of historical and architectural interest, its collections are all of the Kandyan period in the 17th-18th Century. (Tel: 08 223867) 

Ratnapura Museum (Closed on Thursdays & Fridays)

The national museum, Ratnapura, is housed in the famous Ehelapola Walauwa, on the Colombo Road in Ratnapura. The museum displays the gems, the process of gem-mining is displayed through a model. Some of the artefacts displayed here reflect the unique arts and culture of the Sabaragamuwa Province.

 Anuradhapura Folk Museum

(Closed on Thursdays & Fridays)The Folk Museum is in the sacred city close to the Archaeological Museum. It houses a collection of artefacts which illustrate the rural life of the North Central Province. 

Galle National Museum

(Closed on Sundays & Mondays)Within the Fort of Galle, in a Dutch Colonial building in Church street, is the Cultural Museum adjoining the New Oriental Hotel. Its artefacts reflect the culture of the Southern Province. 

The National Maritime Museum, Galle

(Closed on Fridays & Saturdays)Located within the Galle Fort in a colonial Dutch warehouse with imposing pillars, this museum displays the fauna and flora of the sea and the environment. Artefacts consist of preserved material and scale models of whales and fish. 

Bandaranaike Museum

BMICH (Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall) houses memorabilia of Mr. S.W.R.D.Bandaranike, Prime Minister, assassinated in 1956. Admission: Adults Rs. 2/-, Children Rs. 1/- Photography permitted. Guides free of Charge. 

Jayawardane Cultural Centre

Archives and Library situated at 191, Dharmapala Mawatha, Colombo 7, houses many valuable books inherited as "family treasure" by late President J.R.Jayawardena and priceless gifts received by him from many heads of States during his distinguished career. 

Maligawa Museum

Century old articles given to Sri Dalada Maligawa by kings, nobles and other devotees have been put on display in a well laid out museum within the precincts of the Maligawa Museum. The two upper levels of the building at the back of the shrine house of this museum where rare ola manuscripts, royal apparels, life size models of the lost King and Queen of Kandy, variety of antiques and ornaments, ritual objects can be seen. 

Monument of Rajah (Former Maligawa Tusker)

To the North of the Maligawa complex facing Natha Devale is the mausoleum of Rajah, the most devout servant of the Maligawa. Rajah, the Maligawa tusker that carried the relic casket in the annual Esala perahera for 50 years from 1937 to 1987 died in 1988. But the majestic tusker still stands gracefully in still life inside the building with an extended lease of life given by local taxidermists evoking nostalgia to those who have seen it carrying the casket in the perahera. Visit the mausoleum and pay tribute to the dead tusker. 

Koggala Folk Musuem

Koggala Folk Museum presents a rare collection of folk artefacts from different parts of the Island. The items are arranged under twenty five different categories representing handicrafts, folk art and music, cottage industries, agriculture, folk medicines, costumes, religion etc. This museum was established as a tribute to Martin Wickramasinghe. It is situated at Ginpathaliya in Koggala, the birthplace of the late writer. 

Archaeological Museum

The Department of Archaeology maintains archaeological museums at Anuradhapura, Kandy, Sigiriya, Polonnaruwa, Jaffna, Panduwasnuwara, Ampara, Yapahuwa and Dedigama. Open on all days except Tuesday from 0800 hrs to 17000 hrs. Publications on respective archaeological sites are available on sale.
Photography: Permitted from Commissioner of Archaeology, Department of Archaeology. Sir Marcus Fernando Mw, Colombo 7.

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