This museum was established on 01st January 1877 and was the first public museum to be established in the Sri Lanka. The Royal Asiatic Society approached the British Governor of Ceylon, Sir William Henry Gregory, with a request that a public Museum, to house and display various artefacts that had been collected over the years, be built. Legislation was passed and finance found to enable a Neo-classical grand house to start being built in 1876. It opened the following year.
The aim of the National Museum is to create a collection of exhibits for purposes of conversation, research and exhibition. These include artifacts, specimens, books and manuscripts along with other documents of natural and cultural heritage. The Museum also conducts periodic lectures, seminars and film shows to inform the public about the history, culture and national heritage of Sri Lanka.
When it first opened in 1877 the Museum had a collection of about 800 artifacts. However, in 1986, because of the enormity of the exhibits relating to the natural history of the country a new wing was built which housed the Natural History Museum.
The National Museum is located just south of Viharamahadevi Park and Colombo Town Hall. It is housed in an elegant white colonial period building that projects power and wealth. One of the outstanding memories of the Colombo Museum complex, apart from the attractive colonial architecture, is the amazing giant trees planted in the grounds with long tendrils that touch the grass lawns.
The building is shared with the National Art Gallery. Don’t expect the same high quality of displays you would find in Museums in Washington, London or Paris. It is like visiting a museum back in the 1960s.