Colombo National Museum

The Colombo Museum, as it was called at the beginning, was created on January 1, 1877. Its founder is Sir William Henry Gregory, the British governor of Ceylon at the time. The Royal Asian Society played an important role in attracting Gregory to his appointment as governor in 1872. And the need for a public museum with great difficulty went through the approval of the legislative council for a year. The architect of the Department of Public Works JG Smither was able to prepare a plan for a new structure in the Italian architectural style. The construction was completed in 1876, and the museum began operating in the following year. The authorities of the museum have taken various steps to display the country's cultural and natural heritage in the collection of exhibits.

With the development of the museum to the international level, he earned the status of a national museum in the period of the administration of Doctor Deryaniyagala. He was able to open the museum's branches in Jaffna, Kandy and Ratnapura. As a result, a full-fledged Department of National Museums was established in 1942 in accordance with Law No. 31. The expansion of the number of branch museums was increased to nine and, in addition, the program of the School of Science and the museum's mobile exposition began to work.

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The construction of the museum was overseen by Arasi Maricar Vapchi (born in 1829, died in 1925), who came from the family of Sheikh Farid, who arrived in Ceylon in 1060 AD. Vapchi Marikar was the builder of the post office in Colombo, the customs of Colombo, the Old Town Hall in Pettah. He also built, the Hotel Galle Face, Victoria Arcad, Finlay Moir, the clock tower, Batternburg and many other buildings that adorn the capital of Sri Lanka today. The old town hall in Pettah, which is currently occupied by the market, was built under contract for a total of 689 pounds sterling.

In January 1877, having completed the construction of the Colombo Museum, he was announced by His Excellency Governor Gregory in the presence of a large crowd, of whom there were almost no Muslims, although in many respects the merit in the success of the construction was just behind the Muslim community. At the end of the ceremony, His Excellency asked Vapchi Maricar what he could do to thank the architect for his devotion. He asked the same question to the carpenter who helped Vapchi Marikar with the wooden constructions of the museum. Vapchi Marikar, noticing yet some Muslims at the opening ceremony of the museum, was afraid that they would spend their time in the museum on Friday during the Islamic prayer, and asked that the museum was always closed on Fridays. This request was executed, and such are the rules of the museum's operation to this day — it is closed on Fridays.

When the throne of the last King Kandy was to be exhibited in the museum, the then Prime Minister, Mr. DS Senanayake, received the consent of Razik Farid, grandson of Vapchi Marikar, to keep the Museum open in between the posts of Friday.

Between 1877 and 1999, the authorities of the museum took various steps to reflect the cultural and natural heritage of the country for this purpose. Several other wings were completed under the guidance of Dr. Arthur Willy and Dr. Joseph Pearson. And for new structures, premises were built during the period of the museum's management by Dr. Deriyangala, Dr. De Silva and Sirinimala Lakdusinhe. One of these additions is the Museum of Natural History. These buildings contributed to the expansion of the library of ethnological and anthropological research.

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The transfer of the Crown jewels and the throne of the last King of Kandy by the British government to the Government of Sri Lanka, greatly enhanced the quality of the Museum's collection. Despite the colossal nature of the various collections and the thematic organization of the galleries, visitors have the opportunity to explore the ancient culture of Sri Lanka under one roof. This process is improved by placing the galleries on the first floor in a historical sequence, and the upper galleries are broken up on a thematic basis.
Along with the National Museum of Colombo, on January 1, 1877, the Government Library and the Eastern Library was established (1870). The latter was included in the National Museum of Colombo, and serves as the library core for the collection of local publications over the past 129 years. The library functions as an unofficial national library of Sri Lanka. It also became the first legal library on the island. This led to the accumulation of a valuable collection of materials relating to jurisprudence in Sri Lanka. Since its inception, special attention has been paid to building up a collection related to Sri Lanka, the countries of the East and the natural sciences.

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An excursion to the National Museum is an excellent occasion to get acquainted with the history, art and literature of Sri Lanka at the meeting place of the richest and most extensive collection in the country. The trip is very recommended to you when you stay in Colombo. About your desire to visit the museum, please, contact your Lankarus manager to develop the optimal route and visit time.


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