There’s little else as insightful into the history of a country as its museums. With artifacts belonging to distinguished eras from the history that defined and moulded the country into what it is today, Sri Lanka too has several significant museums housing items of significance from the distant past. These museums deal with their own specialized collections and provide a vibrant picture of what Sri Lanka may have been in the past.
National Museum, Colombo
The oldest, largest and most popular museum in Sri Lanka, the National Museum in Colombo that was built in 1877 is housed in a grand colonial building. With over 4,000 palm leaf manuscripts, the museum boasts of ancient royal regalia, jewellery from the bygone times and ancient artwork. It also possesses an impressive collection of traditional masks, china and temple frescoes.
The Dutch Museum
Located in a quaint corner in the bustling hub of Pettah, the Dutch Museum is a gem worth discovering. Housed in an old building on Prince Street that belongs to the Dutch colonial era, it is said that the venue itself was once the residence of Count August Carl Van Ranzow. In addition to marveling at the age old architecture of the building, visitors can also witness the Dutch legacy of the island through Dutch era furniture, costumes, coins and arms.
The Dutch Museum, Prince Street, Colombo, Sri Lanka, +94 11 2 448466
The National Maritime Museum, Galle
Yet another museum housed in an ancient Dutch building that is located within the historical Galle fort. Giving valuable insight into marine history, the museum features artifacts concerning marine biology as well as diagrams showing local fishing methods, deep sea fish, coral and sea grass beds.
Maritime Archaeology Museum, Queens St, Galle, Sri Lanka,+94 91 2 245254
Mask Museum Ambalangoda
Prepare to be mesmerized. One of the finest showcases of creativity and culture under one roof, the colorful mask museum in Ambalangoda features a large range of intricately carved wooden masks that have been used in exorcism and religious rituals in Sri Lanka for centuries.
Ariyapala Masks Museum, Main St, Ambalangoda, Sri Lanka, +94 91 2 258373
Koggala Folk Museum
Erected in tribute to the revered Sinhala writer Martin Wickramasinghe, the Koggala Folk Museum showcases a diverse collection arranged under 25 categories including rare handicrafts, cottage industries, folk music and art, and folk medicine. It is considered a place of great importance as the birthplace of this great writer is believed to have much influence over what shaped him from a young age.
Sri Dalada Museum, Kandy
Ever since the Sacred Tooth Relic has been enshrined in the Dalada Maligawa, many visitors from all over the world have come to pay tribute to this venerated item. The Dalada Museum Kandy today houses valuable gifts received from these visitors as tribute to the Sacred Tooth Relic along with historical artifacts used in the daily rituals of the Dalada Shrine from the time it was brought to Sri Lanka.
Sri Dalada Museum, Sri Dalada Veediya, Kandy, Sri Lanka, +94 81 2 234226
Ehelepola Museum, Rathnapura
The National Museum of Ratnapura is housed in the Ehelepola Walawwa, the abode of the famous Ehelepola Disawa who is today claimed as a hero in the island’s battle against the colonial invaders. This is where the family of the Ehelepola Disawa lived who bravely faced execution when the Disawa was named a traitor for fighting against the invaders. The artifacts displayed represent the unique traditions and culture of the Sabaragamuwa Province.
Ratnapura National Museum, Ratnapura, Sri Lanka, +94 45 2 222451
Tea Museum at Hantane
A joint project by the Sri Lanka Tea Board and the Planters’ Association of Sri Lanka, this museum was established in 1925 in the abandoned Hantane Tea Factory. The museum provides valuable insight into the manner in which tea is produced from the moment of planting the tree to the moment of producing the tea that people drink today.
Ceylon Tea Museum, Hantana Road, Sri Lanka, +94 81 3 803204
Polonnaruwa Visitor Information Centre and Museum
Polonnaruwa holds much fascination for history enthusiasts with its profusion of well-preserved ancient temples, grand palaces and elaborately carved statues. The Polonnaruwa Visitor Information Centre provides a variety of archaeological findings as well as a detailed account of the area’s history, thus bringing it back to life.
Mahahunupitiya Walisinghe Harischandra Museum, Negombo
Regarded as a national hero in the 19th century, this museum houses a variety of items used by Mahahunupitiya Walisinghe Harischandra as well as traditional handicrafts belonging to the era he lived.