A survey of the current state of museums and cultural heritage in Sri Lanka after the civil war
In February and in May, the Japan Consortium for International Cooperation in Cultural Heritage (JCIC-Heritage) supported surveys of the current state of museums and cultural heritage in Sri Lanka since the civil war. These surveys were part of a cultural cooperation program of the Japan Foundation (project participants: KOIZUMI Yoshihide, Supervisor of Planning in the Department of Planning of the Tokyo National Museum and FUKUYAMA Yasuko, Associate professor in the Faculty of Intercultural Communication of Ryukoku University). The project was implemented on the basis of survey studies on international cooperation of Sri Lanka by JCIC-Heritage in 2012. With the cooperation of the Department of Archaeology of Sri Lanka, exhibits and collections were surveyed and information on conservation of cultural properties was gathered primarily in museums in the north (the Jaffna region) and the northeast (the Trincomalee region). These regions had been affected by a civil war that lasted 26 years (1983–2009). Future strategies for conservation and use of cultural properties since the end of the civil war were discussed.
For several years, Sri Lanka has worked to establish cultural facilities and develop regions using cultural properties while taking regional characteristics into account. These efforts are led by the Department of Archaeology and they seek to restore regions affected by the civil war. Jaffna is a unique place in Sri Lanka where one can see the religious imprint of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Christianity, and Jaffna retains various cultural heritage sites with surviving buildings from the colonial period. Trincomalee has many vestiges of Buddhism as well as a history as a center of maritime activity and foreign trade. Plans are underway to establish museums and cultural centers by reusing historic buildings in both regions to appeal to domestic and foreign visitors. That said, the regions face numerous problems in terms of managing cultural properties in existing museums, exhibiting those properties, and personnel to exhibit them. Survey participants provided instructions and suggestions on exhibition plans and management techniques as they exchanged opinions with local personnel.
Sri Lanka has just begun local development that draws on cultural properties in regions that have survived a civil war. The Department of Archaeology needs foreign support in the form of dispatched experts, instruction of personnel, and funds. JCIC-Heritage hopes to continue exploring the potential for cooperation in order to help the regions recover.