Trailblazer of ICCROM for Sri Lanka: Dr Gamini Wijesuriya
Dr. Gamini Wijesuriya, a member of the Archaeological Advisory Council and former Director (Architecture) of the Department of Archaeology, was awarded the prestigious ICCROM award to appreciate his contributions to the field of cultural heritage both in Sri Lanka and internationally, and towards ICCROM’s expansion as an organization. He was esteemed at an intimate service in Rome on 26th October 2021.
As Dr Gamini Wijesuriya is the first Sri Lankan to receive this award, the State Honours on the occasion are to be held by the invitation of the Director-General of Archaeology, with the participation of the state minister for National Heritage, Performing Arts and Rural Art, Vidura Wickramanayake, under the patronage of the Hon. Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa on 22nd February 2022.
Initiation of everything
Dr Gamini Wijesuriya cuts his teeth at the University of Moratuwa by securing both Bachelors and MSc degrees. He gained MA from the University of York and Carnegie -Mellon University, USA. His Ph.D. dissertation was submitted to Leiden University, Netherlands. His career ladder was initiated at the bottom, being an architect for the Urban Development Authority and then a Project Manager for CCF.
He became the successor to Dr. Roland Silva as the head of the Conservation Department of Archaeology. Later, he worked at the International Centre for the Study of Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM) based in Rome. He was also flagged as the first Asian qualified to employ as a staff member during 2004-2017.
Conserving the Nature and Culture
Currently, he is the President of ICOMOS Sri Lanka while holding the fellowship of the Sri Lanka Institute of architects and the Sri Lanka Council of archaeologists. He gained undoubtable reputation over heritage management and as a lead international specialist on World Heritage.
He has also earned international applause due to his ground-breaking presentations on people-centered approaches to the preservation of nature and culture that secure benefits for the society and heritage, which is now gaining standing worldwide.
Reaching the Summit
Dr. Wijesuriya’s distinguished career includes 18 years as Head of Conservation at the Department of Archaeology in Sri Lanka and as an executive committee member of the World Archaeological Congress. Over 40 years of conserving World Heritage, he peaked the summit by joining ICCROM, where he was a key team member who provided direct advice to UNESCO.
Dr Gamini Wijesuriya solely helped shape the World Heritage Capacity Building Strategy from ICCROM’s flagship World Heritage Leadership programme. His instruction initiatives, research, and publications have directly benefited some 1 000 heritage practitioners from over 100 countries. Among his significant contributions were the resource Manual on Managing Cultural World Heritage, with over 150 missions covering nearly 50 countries and training over 1000 professionals worldwide.
He was the Vice President of the World Archaeological Congress and the Vice President of the Scientific International Committee on Archaeological Heritage Management and has served in all major heritage-related national and international organizations in diverse capacities and has many publications to his credit.
Since he retired from ICCROM in 2017, Dr. Wijesuriya has served as a Special Advisor to the Director-General of ICCROM, Rome, Italy, while holding several other national and international positions. He is also a Special Advisor to the Director of WHITRAP Shanghai, an honorary senior lecturer at the Institute of Archaeology at University College London, and a member of the advisory body to the Sri Lankan Department of Archaeology.
His legacy can be seen in the generations of heritage leaders he has raised.