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National Museum of Colombo, also known as the Sri Lanka National Museum is one of two museums in Colombo. It is the largest museum in Sri Lanka. Its is maintained by the Department of National Museum of the central government. The museum holds contains a collections of much importance to Sri Lanka such as the regalia of the country, including the throne and crown of the Kandyan monarchs as well as many other exhibits telling the story of ancient Sri Lanka
The Colombo museum as it was called at the beginning was established on 1 January 1877. It founder was Sir William Henry Gregory the British Governor of Ceylon (Sri Lanka) at the time. The Royal Asiatic Society (CB) was instrumental in bringing to the notice of Gregory on his appointment as Governor in 1872 the need for a public Museum with much difficulty the approval of the legislative council was obtained within a year. The Architect of the Public Works Department, J. G. Smither was able to prepare the plans for new structure on Italian Architectural style. The construction was completed in 1876 and the Museum commenced it functions in the following year.
During the period between 1877 and 1999 the Authorities of the museum took various steps to display the cultural and natural heritage of the country for this purpose. Several other wings were added from time to time under the direction of Dr. Arthur Willey and Dr. Joseph Pearson new structures were built during the period of Dr. P. E. P. Deraniyagala, Dr. P. H. D. H. de Silva and Sirinimal Lakdusinghe. One of the natural history museum, and yet another consists of the auditorium. These buildings would facilitate the extension of the library ethnological and Anthropological studies, etc
With the development of the museum to international level, it earned the status of a national museum during the period of Dr. P. E. P. Deraniyagala. He was able to open up branch museums in Jaffna, Kandy, and Rathnapura and a full – fledged department of national museum was established in 1942 under the act No. 31. The extension of the number of branch museums has now increased to nine and in addition a school science programme and a mobile museum service are also in operation. The installation of the Crown jewels & the throne of the last King of Kandy which were handed over back to Sri Lanka by the British Government, has greatly enhanced the quality of the museum collection. In spite of the enormity of the various collections thematic arrangement of the galleries has provided and opportunity to visitors to study the ancient culture of the Sri Lanka under one roof. This process has further been improved by the arrangement of the galleries of the ground floor in a historical sequence and those of the upper galleries on a thematic basis.
Along with the Colombo National Museum library was also, established in 1st of January in 1877. The government Oriental library (1870) was incorporated in to Colombo National Museum library, and served as the nucleus of the library collection by collecting the local publications during the past 129 years; the library has been functioning as an unofficial national library in Sri Lanka; became the first legal Deposit library in the Island. This resulted in the accumulation of a valuable collection of materials pertaining to Sri Lanka. From its inception, special attention has been given to building up of a collection related to Sri Lanka, Orientation and Natural Science.
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