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Prof. Prematilleke  has achieved fame as a museologist, through his planning and organization of Archaeological, Art, and Irrigation Museums, all of which are of international standard.

Senarat Paranavitana Teaching and Research Museum

  • The teaching museum of the Department of Archaeology was begun a couple of years after the foundation of the department under the headship of Prof. Paranavitana.
  • Prof. Paranavitana retired at the end of 1964 and Prematilleke who took over, further developed the museum. 
  • The museum contains some unique artifacts and antiquities like the gold stylus of King Narendrasimha, Carve Ivories, Intaglios of West Asiatic, Indian and Sri Lankan origin, coins & beads etc.
  • The museum was renamed “Senarat Paranavitana Teaching and Research Museum” in 1998, which was declared open by Prof Prematilleke.
  • The museum consists largely of the bequest of Leslies de Saram, a well-known collector of the time. Other collections of W.H.Biddel and D.P.E.Hettiarachchi enriched the museum artifacts. Plaster casts of ancient sculpture, both Buddhist and Hindu, were prepared by J.D.A.Perera. In later times, other teaching material belonging to Pre and Protohistoric times have been added to the collection. Thus, the artifacts exhibited in the Museum consist of figure sculptures, ritual objects, decorative carvings, weapons, tools, writing equipment including epigraphs, personal and household effects, medical and surgical equipment, costumes and painted cloth, coins, medals, intaglios, beads, geological material, etc.
  • In 2004 he published a comprehensive catalogue of objects in the museum.
  • Some objects of significance were shown in local and foreign exhibitions including at the Commonwealth Institute, London.

Polonnaruwa Museum and Information Centre

  • Inaugurated in October 1998
  • Established with the cooperation of the Royal Netherlands Embassy Sri Lanka.
  • This was established towards the end of the Alahana Parivena project of the Cultural Triangle, which was directed by Prof. Prematilleke. 
  • In collaboration with Dr. Roelof Munneke (Curator, National Museum of Ethnology, Leiden) he planned and arranged the museum display.
  • The museum is located just below the bund of the Parakrama Samudra, by the irrigation canal which takes water out to the countryside.
  • Artifacts unearthed included both Buddhist and Hindu statues of stone and bronze, terracotta figurines, surgical and medical instruments, a medicine trough, foundries with crucibles and moulds, Chinese ceramics, gift cases, jewellery boxes and mirrors, agricultural utensils, coin moulds and coins, inscriptions, pottery, beads, seals, bangles, and human bones including a skeleton of pre-Polonnaruva times. These as well as replicas created by local artisans under the guidance of Prof. Prematilleke of the original state of important buildings in the Polonnaruva archaeological site area, were preserved in the museum.
  • It was universally acclaimed that this was Sri Lanka’s most outstanding museum at the time and also one of the best site-museums in Asia.

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Dambulla Paintings Museum

  • Also known as The Museum of Mural Paintings
  • Inaugurated In November 2003, this was another museum designed by Prof. Prematilleke.
  • The museum is situated next to the historic Dambulla temple, facing the Kandy-Dambulla main road. It is on the same side of the road as the temple, and if you stand facing the temple, the museum is to the left of it. It has its own car park and is open from Monday to Saturday (8-5) except public holidays.
  • This is the only museum in Sri Lanka which is dedicated solely for the display of ancient mural paintings. This museum serves a great purpose for those who study the history of mural paintings in Sri Lanka, as it takes you on a walk-through of painting styles with detailed descriptions, from primitive to pre-modern era.

National Irrigation Museum

  • Taking about a year to complete, this museum was ceremonially opened on 19th  December 2012.
  • Prof. Prematilleke was the Main Advisor in planning the museum, greatly contributing to its establishment.
  • This museum is not only  a showroom for the glory of Sri Lankan Irrigation culture and technology, but also serves as an Information & Research Centre which acquires data on ancient irrigation and technology as well as a Conservation Centre. It provides information on the Mahaweli Development Project & other modern irrigation projects as well.
  • The museum consists of 3 phases; BC to 1850, 1850 to 1970 and 1970 to modern times.
  • It is housed in the Mahaweli Centre Colombo.

National Maritime Archaeology Museum (Dutch warehouse, Galle Fort)

  • This museum, which is located in the Ancient Dutch-East India Trading Company storage building inside the Galle Fort, was severely damaged by the Tsunami of 2004, and was refurbished and re-opened to the public in March 2010.
  • Prof. Prematilleke Chaired the Committee for refurbishment of the museum, and he worked closely with Prof. Sudharshan Seneviratne and others on this task.
  • This museum houses an Information Centre, 4 exhibit rooms, an auditorium, a conservatory and a book and replica shop.
  • This museum of maritime history and archeology is conceived to reveal & exhibit the cultural heritage of the maritime region as vividly as possible with the main objective of educating the present and future generations. 
  • Ancient shipwrecks of 3 colonial eras in Sri Lanka and the architectural hallmarks of the Galle Fort are some of the prominent entities that are seen in this museum.
  • Conservation of the Dutch warehouse was funded by the Sri Lanka – Netherlands Cultural Cooperation Programme.

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The Magampura Ruhunu Heritage Museum, Hambantota

  • Prof. Prematilleke was the Project Consultant for the creation of this museum.
  • He has written and overseen translation of all the detailed descriptions of items that are on display at the museum while also designing the museum layouts himself.
  • He also edited the museum guide booklet which provides a good introduction to the archaeological treasures of the Ruhunu heritage with photographs, illustrations and text which pleasantly lay out the highlights of an important period in the history of Sri Lanka.
  • The Magampura Ruhunu Heritage Museum is a centre for knowledge of ancient and modern Rohana and Magama. This consists of several galleries including the natural environment of Rohana, Rohana after independence, Magampura Ruhunu heritage, art and architecture, European era and industries.
  • It is located in the old kachcheri (secretariat) building, historically used by Leonard Woolf. It is approached by reaching the Hambantota bus stand and taking the road to the left of it (Beach Road) uphill, which ends at the museum premises, which is a beautiful white colonial building with broad columns around the verandah.

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Sri Dalada Museum, Nugawela Building, Sri Dalada Maligawa

  • Inaugurated in 1999, this museum showcases the original layouts of the Dalada Maligawa, as planned by the ancient Kings, from King Wimaladharmasuriya onwards, as well as important documents of colonial times.
  • It is unique in that it showcases the damage to the Maligawa by the 1998 terrorist bombing, which unearthed some ancient layers of its structure.
  • This museum was designed, organized and planned as an honorary service to Buddhism by Prof. Prematilleke.
  • Prof. Prematilleke was the Director in charge of the entire museum complex project, which included
    • The Royal Palace – converted to the museum
    • New Throne Room – converted to the Raja Tusker Museum (where the revered elephant Raja, who carried the Sacred Tooth relic for decades, is preserved)
    • Queen’s Chamber conservation
    • Queen’s bath conservation

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The International Museum of World Buddhism, Sri Dalada Maligawa

  • This museum, which was the first of its kind in the world, was opened to the public in November 2010.
  • It is not to be mistaken for the Sri Dalada Museum described above, and is housed in an entirely different building, the former High Courts complex, behind the Dalada Maligawa.
  • As the Project Consultant and Planner, Prof. Prematilleke ably planned and directed this museum as a voluntary service to Buddhism.
  • It is interesting that the idea for this museum was first suggested by the late Prof. Paranavitana, in the 1950s.
  • Professor Prematilleke describes the museum thus: ‘the International Buddhist Museum will focus on the history of Buddhism and practice in the respective countries, bringing into focus the two major divisions of Buddhism, the Theravada (Hinayana) and the Mahayana practices exercised in the Buddhist world. These two vehicles of Buddhism, which arose in India, spread to neighboring and distant countries mainly through three different routes, namely, (a) Southern Route :  Central and South India, Sri Lanka. (b) South-East Asian Route : Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia. (c) Northern and North-Western Route : Himalayan region, modern Pakistan, Afghanistan, Central Asia, China, Korea and Japan.‘ Apart from a few unavoidable instances, The gallery arrangement follows these three routes.
  • It is fascinating to the viewer to compare the different systems in the practice of Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism, and the depictions of Lord Buddha and other figures by various cultures, displayed side by side in one building. The museum has played a major role in the advancement of cultural tourism and bringing closer understanding of Buddhist thought in a wider context.

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National Museum Colombo

  • This museum which was founded in 1877 underwent a major refurbishment commissioned by the Department of National Museums, Ministry of Cultural Affairs and National Heritage and funded by HSBC for a LKR 6 million  partnership to refurbish the galleries of the museum.
  • Prof. Prematilleke was the Consultant for and Team leader for the refurbishment project planning, design and implementation which commenced on 19th July 2004.
  • He supervised the work every step of the way, visiting the museum almost daily, in spite of ill health. He continued hands-on supervision of the  upper galleries (i.e. Paintings gallery)when he could no longer climb stairs, being carried up the steps on a chair as there was no elevator!
  • He designed new layouts, and oversaw each detail of the new displays including lighting, and wrote the descriptions  for artifacts himself. 
  • He designed and wrote the guidebooks for the refurbished museum and its galleries. 
  • Galleries which were refurbished are
    • Anuradhapura – in January 2005
    • Polonnaruwa – in April 2005
    • Kandy – in November 2005 
    • Paintings – in 2010

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Customs Museum

  • Opened in 2013, it is housed in the Headquarters of the Sri Lanka Customs Department, near Pettah on Main Street Colombo 11
  • The Customs Museum displays various items seized by Sri Lanka Customs, which people attempted to smuggle out of the country in violation of the Customs Ordinance read with Antiquities Ordinance. Examples are ivory, leopard skins, furniture and other precious artifacts.
  • Detailed descriptions of 49 objects on display were provided by Prof. Prematilleke, for the preparation of a coffee table book.

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