Colombo National Museum - History and Facts | History Hit

Colombo National Museum

Colombo, Western Province, Sri Lanka

The Colombo National Museum is a museum of Sri Lankan history and art.

About Colombo National Museum

The Colombo National Museum houses an interesting collection of historic artefacts and artwork from throughout Sri Lanka. Spread out over two floors, the Colombo National Museum is well-organised, with each room on the ground floor dedicated to a different period, and each on the upper floor to a different theme.

From stone and bone tools in the prehistoric and proto-historic section to Sinhalese artefacts from the Anuradhapura and Polonnaruva to the Kandy periods, the Colombo National Museum gives a good overview of Sri Lanka’s history.

On the upper floor, visitors can see everything from nineteenth century art to a collection of weaponry.

History of Colombo National Museum

The museum was originally called the Colombo Museum, and was founded on 1 January 1877 by Sir William Henry Gregory, the British Governor of Ceylon (Sri Lanka).

The Royal Asiatic Society was instrumental in bringing Gregory’s attention to the need for a museum to display the cultural and natural heritage of the country. The result is a museum housed in a 150-year-old colonial building.

From 1877-1999, several other wings and extensions were added, such as a natural history museum and auditorium, which facilitated the extension of the library of ethnological and anthropological studies.

In 1877, a library was added, which the government Oriental library was also incorporated into.

The museum was given the status of national museum, and a further nine branch museums were opened, as well as a school science programme and a mobile museum service.

Colombo National Museum Today

The museum has a copy of the Statue of Tara, which is a three-quarter life size statue of Tara which is currently in the British Museum. There are also crown jewels and the throne of the last King of Kandy, which were returned to Sri Lanka by the British Government.

Visitors can also enjoy the 15 main displays over two floors of interconnected colonial buildings. There are a number of items from the prehistoric age and iron age as well as numerous Buddha sculptures, old paintings, stone sculptures, Ganesh sculptures, old clothes and jewellery, agriculture, and coins.

The museum is often a destination for tours and tour guides, including from tour buses and cruises. It is therefore recommended to visit the museum during off-peak hours to avoid a surge.

Getting to Colombo National Museum

From the centre of Colombo, the museum is a 7 minute drive via Darley Rd/T. B. Jayah Mawatha. There are also a number of connecting bus services that take around 20 minutes and depart regularly from the centre. By foot, the museum is reachable in around 45 minutes via Darley Rd/T. B. Jayah Mawatha.