Department of National Archives

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Department of National Archives in Colombo, Sri Lanka

The Department of National Archives is a non-ministerial government department in Sri Lanka which is the repository of the non-current records of the Government of Sri Lanka. The headquarters of the National Archives is situated along Reid Avenue in close proximity to Independence square, Colombo and has a branch office in Kandy.


The current department operate under the regulations of the National Archives Law No. 48 of 1973, and National Archives (Amendment)Act No. 30 of 1981. The duties of archivist in Sri Lanka can be traced to the ancient Sri Lankan Kingdoms dating far back as 3rd century BC, when officers were appointed to maintain Royal Archives of the Kings. In the 19th century Hay Macdowall noted that in the Kandian Court there was an officer called Maha Mohotti, who maintained the archives of the Royal Palace during the 18th and 19th centuries.

During the Monarchial period (3rd century BC to 1815 AD) there had been an officers who was in charge of the royal archives and the 19th-century account of Hay Macdowall reveals an officer called ‘Maha Mohotti’ as the officer who maintained the Kandyan archives of the Royal palace during the 18th and 19th centuries.

The modern archives keeping started in the island by the Dutch, who maintained an archives in Galle. The current department was formed with the creation of the post of Government Archivist in 1901 by the Government of Ceylon and was part of the Chief Secretaries Office (also known as the Colonial Secretary). R.G. Anthonisz was appointed first Government Archivist in 1902. The Department of the Government Archivist was formally established in 1947. Following the enactment of the National Archives Law No. 48 of 1973 the department was renamed as the Department of National Archives.


The records holdings in the Department of National Archives are records of the Portuguese period; Records of the Dutch period 1640-1796: Land Tombo, Head Tombo and School Tombo Council Minutes and practically all records of the Dutch administration in the Island; Records of the British Period 1796-1947; copies of Crown Grants, Grain Tax Registers, Nila Pangu & Praveni Pangu Registers. Records since independence 1948; Government, Semi Government and of other institutions.

Apart from these there is a large collection of donated or purchased papers, manuscripts and books from institutions and individuals such as the Horagolla library, which is the Bandaranaike family records; the Times of Ceylon Collection; manuscripts from temples and private individuals; collection of election literature; Maps of the Portuguese, Dutch and British periods (1505-1947); Maps of Sri Lanka since Independence (Surveyor General's Maps). Also stored are government publications such as Ordinances 1796-1947; Government Gazettes 1802; Blue Books 1821-1937; Sessional Papers 1860 onwards; Administration Reports 1867 onwards; Hansard reports 1870 onwards and other publications (1885 onwards).

Heads of Department[edit]

Government Archivist[edit]

Director, National Archives[edit]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]