I never knew the place existed till the guy at the counter of the Colombo museum suggested I check it out. The Natural History Museum (NHM) is a division of the Sri Lanka National Museum. It has its own digs in an ugly modernist edifice (Wikimapia location) thankfully veiled by the elegance of the better know Colombo museum.
The only way to enter is through the Colombo museum gate. The NHM has a gate on to Green Path aka Horton Place aka Ananda Commaraswamy Mawatha. The gate is closed/locked and the path to it a bit weeded up.
When I got there it was quite hot outside. Not much cooler on the inside. Bring a bottle of water (hopefully they will let you take it in).
The place is a museum to the late 1970s early 1980s. Everything is a static display. Either as models, hand drawn posters, or specimens (mainly reptiles) in jars. There is nothing remotely digital or digitally generated. The most of the labels seemed hand drawn. The exhibits resonating with the buried memories of my pre-school days. Nothing seems to have been updated from that era.
Yet despite a faded worn look the place is clean. The fans work. The lights are on. The collection is quite extensive. If your are a naturalist buff (unlike me) I’d say you’ll find the place a fascinating jumping off point to the diversity of life this island has to offer.
Clearly there are some loving hands at work keeping the place above the water. For a third world country in a 30 year war to keep such a place going is quite an achievement. There are many such achievement which remain hidden.
Some of the staff sitting in chairs scattered throughout its 3 floors insist that I view certain exhibits first or in a specific order. I go along out of politeness. But biology was not my thing.
Besides humble self, there is a young couple whom I doubt is there purely out of scientific interest. Or maybe they are. I try to leave them alone but unfortunately I kept running into them. The only other visitors are a mother and her two young sons. She seems quite enthusiastic about perking up her kids’ scientific curiosity. You got to admire her determination to educate her children.
The models of the Mahawali scheme brought back quite a few memories of the early school days. I vaguely recall being herded through echoing corridors as a tot with the rest of our grade.
In a comment, N mentioned that the Man Eater of Punanai is one of the stuffed animals in the museum. Didn’t spot it it. Wonder if this image from the Sri Lanka National Museum web-site is of that particular kitty. Looks more like a model to me but what do I know of taxidermy?
Another interesting exhibit is of a huge model of a seal like animal on the second floor – in the marine section.
Due to my level of interest in the subject I didn’t stay there long. On the way to the gate spotted a hefty reptilian tail jutting out of the bushes along the path. Clearly not a run away exhibit.
Finding a 3 wheeler around the main gate to putt putt me home is not a problem.
Btw, Links to other geoblogged locations are in the geoblog archive.
Indi has a post on a Nov 2010 visit to the Colombo Natural History Museum