The Colombo Museum as it was called at the beginning was established on 1st 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.
The Authorities of the museum took various steps to display the cultural and natural heritage of the country for this purpose.
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 Ratnapura and a full - fledged Department of National Museums 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.
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.
The National Museum of Kandy in Kandy, Sri Lanka is located next to the Temple of the Tooth in part of the former Royal Palace of Kandy. The primary exhibits are housed in the Palle Vahala building, which was the former home of the King's harem. A secondary exhibition is located in the main palace building. The museum is maintained by the Department of National Museums.
The Palle Vahala (lower palace) or Meda Vahala (middle palace) was constructed during the Sri Vickrama Rajasingha era and was used as the quarters of the queens of King of Kandy. This building has been built according to the architectural features of Kandy period. It was used as a depository for historical artifacts made by the Kandy Art Association which was established in 1832 and artisans of Matale. The museum was opened to the public in 1942.
The museum has over 5,000 artifacts on display consist of weapons, jewelry, tools and other artifacts from the Kandian era (17-19th Century) and post British Colonial era, including a copy of the 1815 agreement that handed over the Kandyan provinces to the British. In the grounds of the museum is a statue of Sir Henry Ward a former Governor of Ceylon (1855–1860), which was originally located in front of the Queen's Hotel.
The National Museum of Galle (Galle National Museum) is one of the national museums of Sri Lanka. It is located in the oldest remaining Dutch building in the Galle fort, Galle, a single storey colonnaded Dutch building built in 1656 as the commissariat store for the Dutch garrison at the fort. It subsequently served as a billiards room for the adjoining New Oriental Hotel (now the Amangalla Hotel). The building was renovated by the Department of National Museums and opened on 31 March 1986.
The museum houses a limited collection of exhibits from the Portuguese, Dutch and British periods. It has three main galleries, the first contains collections relating to the area's cottage industries, primarily turtle shell jewellery manufacturing, Beeralu lace weaving and traditional wooden mask carving. The second contains a collection of Dutch period furniture and weaponry. The final gallery, the 'Sri Lanka China Friendship Gallery', was opened on 10 September 2013. It is dedicated to the historical and archeological evidence of trade relations between China and Sri Lanka, with displays on the Chinese Buddhist monk Faxian (337 – c. 422 CE) and the 14th Century Fleet Admiral Zheng He (1371 – 1433).
The house in which Martin Wickramasinghe was born has inspired the Martin Wickramasinghe Trust to established a Folk Museum Complex, surrounded by a restored ecosystem planted with hundreds of varieties of indigenous trees and shrubs in which bird life abounds. The house and the surroundings brings to life a little part of the Koggala which is so vividly depicted in Wickramasinghe’s writings.