This month marks the 20th anniversary of the U.S. State Department’s Ambassadors’ Fund for Cultural Preservation (AFCP), which has provided more than 200 million Sri Lankan Rupees ($1 million) in funding to protect Sri Lanka’s diverse cultural treasures, a statement from the U.S. embassy said.
Since 2001, AFCP has funded 13 projects in Sri Lanka. Projects have included the comprehensive documentation of western monasteries and historic buildings within the World Heritage sites of Anuradhapura and Galle, the restoration of the Batticaloa Dutch Fort, and the establishment of an Archaeological Museum Laboratory to preserve Tamil artefacts. Recognising that certain forms of Sri Lankans’ traditions cannot be found within a building, the AFCP has also supported the preservation of the intangible heritage of ritual music and dance forms of the Adivasi, Tamil, and Buddhist communities. All AFCP projects involve expert local partners and promote the use of traditional materials and methods. These programmes strengthen civil society, spur economic growth, and foster respect for cultural diversity.
“Travelling around Sri Lanka and visiting some of the projects, the AFCP has helped protect, the country’s long history as a home to a variety of ethnicities and religions,” said U.S. Ambassador Alaina B. Teplitz. “I’m proud the United States is helping Sri Lankans celebrate that heritage and is preserving it for future generations to appreciate and explore,” he said.
One of the AFCP’s first large-scale projects began in 2005 with a survey on cultural properties inside the Matara Dutch Fort that were affected by the 2004 tsunami. The detailed survey included measured drawings, photographs, illustrations, and a conditional survey detailing the tsunami’s damage.
Most recently, Ambassador Teplitz re-opened the renovated Anuradhapura Department of Archaeology Museum in September 2019. The decade-long museum renovation project included upgraded preservation techniques and equipment for its collection and was funded through three separate grant awards by the AFCP for display cases and security, cataloguing and conservation of the museum collection and training for Department of Archaeology staff on the conservation of artefacts.
Other projects include the conservation and restoration of cave dwellings, monuments, and buildings belonging to the Rajagala Buddhist forest monastery. The project also restored the walkways that connect the stupas, common buildings, caves with meditation paintings, and other significant structures. Additional excavations were conducted that identified a pre-historic human settlement, which were the first ever research excavations carried out in the Eastern Province in Sri Lanka.
The AFCP is a grant programme established by the State Department at the request of the Congress that has supported over 1,000 cultural preservation projects in more than 130 countries since 2001, including Sri Lanka.
All AFCP projects involve expert local partners and promote the use of traditional materials and methods. These programmes strengthen civil society, spur economic growth, and foster respect for cultural diversity