Dutch Museum (Colombo)

Colombo Dutch Museum
The Dutch Museum or Museum Voor De Hollandes (Sinhala: කොළඹ ලන්දේසි කෞතුකාගාරය; Tamil: கொழும்பு ஒல்லாந்தர் அருங்காட்சியகம்) is located in Pettah in Colombo District, Sri Lanka. It is one of the Museums Administered by the Department of National Museums. It preserves a collection of items belonging to the Dutch who ruled coastal areas of Sri Lanka from 1658 to 1796 (Mandawala, 2017).

The museum has been established in a two-storied colonial Dutch building. The building is thought to be at the present site since 1708 and it had been used as the house for the Dutch Seminary with an orphanage "Weeskamer" attached to it (Paranavitana, 1982). However, the inscription above the entrance door of the building indicates the year 1780 (Paranavitana, 1982). According to Paranavitana, the date of the establishment of this seminary can not be ascertained and historians are of the opinion that the location of this seminary never changed between 1708 and 1780 (Paranavitana, 1982).

Dutch Museum (Colombo)
The building later became the official residence of the Governor of Dutch Ceylon Thomas van Rhee (1634 - 1701 A.D.) during his term of office from 1692 to 1697 (Mandawala, 2017; Paranavitana, 1982). During the British Period, the building was used as a hospital for the causalities of the Kandyan military campaign of the British in 1803 (Paranavitana, 1982). It became the headquarters and armoury of the Ceylon Volunteer Corps. in the latter part of the 1800s (Paranavitana, 1982). Later, the building was used as a police training centre and finally as the Pettah post office and telecommunication centre (Mandawala, 2017; Paranavitana, 1982). It was abandoned in January 1973, when a rainstorm damaged the building (Paranavitana, 1982).

The building was then recommended for conversion into a museum to preserve the Dutch heritage of Sri Lanka and after four years of restoration, it was declared open to the public as the first Dutch museum of the country by the then President of Sri Lanka on 10 July 1982 (Paranavitana, 1982; Rambukwella, 2014). This process was supported by different organizations in the Netherlands including the Netherlands-Sri Lanka Foundation in Hague and the Netherlands Alumni Association of Sri Lanka (Paranavitana, 1982; Rambukwella, 2014). Later on, the museum was handed over to the Department of National Museums for maintenance (Rambukwella, 2014).

Antiquities with archaeological and historical value such as old VOC ceramics, Dutch seals, flags, furniture, household items, photographs, coins, and tombstones are exhibited in the museum (Rambukwella, 2014).

A protected building
The Dutch Museum located in Pettah in the Divisional Secretariat Division of Colombo is an archaeological protected monument, declared by a government gazette notification published on 18 June 1999.

Colombo Dutch Museum
1) Dutch Period Museum by Jorge Láscar is licensed under CC BY 2.0
1) Mandawala, P.B., 2017. Heritage Management in Sri Lanka: In legal, administrative and financial perspective over 125 Years. Shared Global Experiences for Protection of Built Heritage, pp.56-68.
2) Paranavitana, K.D., 1982. Dutch Period Museum–Colombo. Itinerario, 6(2), pp.2-4.
3) Rambukwella, M.W.C.N.K., 2014. Heritage representation in culturally diverse societies: a case study of the Colombo National Museum in Sri Lanka (Doctoral dissertation, School of Museum Studies). p.406.
4) The Gazette of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. No: 1085. 18 June 1999.

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This page was last updated on 10 July 2022

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