Colonial museology and the Buddhist chronicles of Sri Lanka: agency and negotiation in the development of the palm-leaf manuscript collection at the Colombo Museum.

Jonathan Sweet


The roles of colonial museums in South Asia have been understood in terms of the dissemination of museology within the British Empire. This has often underplayed the participation of local intellectuals in the formation of museum collections, and thus has not recognized their agency in the creation of knowledge and of longstanding cultural assets. This article addresses this in part through an historical case study of the development of the palm-leaf manuscript collection at the Colombo Museum in nineteenth century Ceylon. The article focuses on the relationships between Government aims, local intellectuals and the Buddhist clergy. I argue that colonial museology and collecting activity in Ceylon ought to be understood as a negotiated process and a number of reasons for this are discussed. This article contributes to an area of museological research that is exploring the roles of indigenous actors in colonial collecting and museum practice in South Asia and broader geographical contexts.

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Copyright (c) 2015 Jonathan Sweet

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Museum and Society

ISSN 1479-8360

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