Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art

Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art

Located in the Lighthouse Hill neighborhood of Staten Island, the Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art offers a unique cultural experience. Established in 1945 by Jacques Marchais (1887-1948), a pioneering American woman and expert on Tibetan art, the museum features a diverse collection of Tibetan artifacts. Designed to resemble traditional Tibetan monasteries, the museum showcases artifacts from Tibet, Nepal, and northern China.

The museum offers a tranquil setting, diverse exhibits, and various programs. Visitors can explore artifacts, participate in meditation classes, or enjoy the peaceful atmosphere. The Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art caters to a wide audience, offering insights into Tibetan art and culture.

Historical Background

Early Life and Career

Jacques Marchais, born in 1887 in Cincinnati, Ohio, began her career as a child actress. Her performances took her across various cities, and she later opened an art gallery in Manhattan in 1938, focusing on Tibetan and Indian art.

Move to Staten Island

In 1921, Marchais moved to Staten Island with her husband, Harry Klauber. Here, she developed a deep interest in Tibetan art and culture, despite never having visited Tibet. She began collecting Tibetan artifacts and envisioned creating a center to showcase them.

Founding the Museum

In 1945, Marchais founded the Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art. The museum’s design was inspired by traditional Tibetan monasteries and included terraced gardens and a library. Marchais was heavily involved in the construction, personally designing many aspects and overseeing the building process.

Collection and Contributions

The museum houses a significant collection of Tibetan, Nepalese, and Northern Chinese artifacts, primarily from the 15th to 19th centuries. It includes religious sculptures, thangka paintings, and ritual objects, making it one of the most important collections of Himalayan art in the United States.

Recognition and Legacy

The museum opened in 1947 and has since become a vital cultural institution. It attracts visitors interested in Tibetan art and culture and offers various educational programs. Jacques Marchais’s efforts have created a lasting legacy, promoting global understanding and appreciation of Tibetan heritage.

Architecture and Location

The Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art
Jacques Marchais Museum

Tibetan-Inspired Design

The Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art is modeled after traditional Tibetan monasteries, reflecting the architectural styles of the Potala Palace in Lhasa and the “Chinese Lama Temple: Potala of Jehol” seen at the 1933 Century of Progress Exposition in Chicago. Key features include a long flight of stone stairs, trapezoidal windows, and a pagoda-shaped roof. The museum also includes a three-tiered altar made of mica, designed by Marchais herself​​.

Museum of Tibetan Art

Strategic Location

The museum is situated on Lighthouse Hill in Staten Island, New York, offering a serene and picturesque environment. This location was chosen for its tranquility and the natural beauty of the surrounding area. Despite its somewhat secluded position, the museum is accessible and within commuting distance from Manhattan, making it an appealing destination for visitors seeking a peaceful retreat​​.

Terraced Gardens and Meditation Spaces

In addition to the museum building, the grounds include terraced gardens and meditation spaces. Marchais designed these gardens herself, naming them “Samadhi,” a Sanskrit term for a high level of meditation. These gardens and meditation spaces add to the museum’s tranquil atmosphere, providing visitors with a serene setting to appreciate the art and culture of Tibet​​.

Tibetan prayer flags

Accessibility and Challenges

While the museum offers a unique and enriching experience, it faces challenges due to its location. The lack of a dedicated parking lot has limited its accessibility, although bicycling clubs frequently visit due to easier parking options. Despite these challenges, the museum remains a hidden gem among New York City’s cultural institutions, attracting around 5,000 visitors annually.

Collection and Exhibits

Diverse Artifacts from the Himalayas

The Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art houses an extensive collection of artifacts primarily from Tibet, Nepal, and northern China, dating from the 15th to the 19th centuries. The collection includes religious sculptures, thangka paintings, and ritual objects, making it one of the most comprehensive collections of Himalayan art in the United States​​.

Tibetan mini statue

Notable Exhibits

Key exhibits feature statues of Tibetan deities, including the Buddha of Long Life, Amitayus, as well as White Tara and Ushnishavijaya. These long-life deities are significant within Tibetan Buddhism and are prominently displayed in the museum. Other notable artifacts include intricate thangka paintings depicting various aspects of Tibetan Buddhist practice and life​​.

Educational and Cultural Programs

The museum not only displays artifacts but also provides educational programs to enhance understanding of Tibetan culture. Regular events include guided tours, lectures, and workshops focusing on the history and significance of the exhibited pieces. Additionally, the museum hosts temporary exhibitions that highlight different themes and aspects of Tibetan and Himalayan art​​.

Library and Research Resources

Alongside the art collection, the museum features a library with a comprehensive collection of books on Tibetan culture, art, and religion. This library was established by Jacques Marchais and includes volumes on various related subjects, providing valuable resources for researchers and enthusiasts​​.

Special Exhibitions and Highlights

The museum frequently updates its exhibits to showcase different aspects of its collection. Recent exhibitions have focused on themes such as “Long Life Deities” and have included artifacts from various Himalayan cultures. These special exhibitions offer visitors a deeper insight into the religious and cultural practices of the region​.

Programs and Activities

Regular Classes and Workshops

The Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art offers a variety of programs designed to engage visitors and enhance their understanding of Tibetan culture. Regular classes include yoga, tai chi, and meditation, which are conducted weekly. These classes aim to promote physical and mental well-being and are accessible to participants of all skill levels​​.

Educational Programs for Children

The museum also focuses on educational activities for school-age children. These programs are designed to introduce young learners to Tibetan art and culture through interactive sessions and hands-on activities. Educational tours and workshops are available for school groups, providing a valuable learning experience outside the traditional classroom setting​​.

Special Events and Exhibitions

Throughout the year, the museum hosts a range of special events and temporary exhibitions. These events often include lectures, cultural performances, and art demonstrations, providing visitors with deeper insights into specific aspects of Tibetan and Himalayan culture. Special exhibitions highlight different themes and artifacts from the museum’s collection, offering fresh perspectives and new learning opportunities​​.

Community Engagement

The museum encourages community involvement through various volunteer opportunities and membership programs. Volunteers can participate in different roles, from assisting with events to helping maintain the museum’s gardens. Membership programs offer additional benefits such as free admission, discounts on classes, and exclusive invitations to special events​​.

Cultural and Spiritual Enrichment

In addition to its regular programs, the museum occasionally hosts spiritual retreats and workshops focused on Tibetan Buddhist practices. These events provide participants with an opportunity to learn from experienced practitioners and immerse themselves in the spiritual traditions of Tibet. The museum’s tranquil setting on Lighthouse Hill enhances the experience, offering a peaceful environment for reflection and meditation​.

Visitor Information

Location and Accessibility

The Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art is located at 338 Lighthouse Avenue, Staten Island, New York. The museum’s serene setting on Lighthouse Hill provides a peaceful environment for visitors. Although the museum lacks a dedicated parking lot, it remains accessible via public transportation and is a popular destination for bicycling clubs​​.

Hours of Operation

The museum is open to the public from Thursday to Sunday, with visiting hours from 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM. It is closed on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. These hours provide ample opportunity for visitors to explore the museum and its exhibits at a leisurely pace​​.

Admission Fees

Admission fees are set to ensure accessibility for a wide range of visitors. General admission is $6, while students and seniors can visit for $4. Members of the museum and participants in the SNAP and WIC programs enjoy free admission. These rates help support the museum’s operations and educational programs​.

Contact Information

For further inquiries or to plan a visit, the museum can be contacted via phone at (718) 987-3500 or through email at [email protected]. Visitors can also subscribe to the museum’s newsletter for updates on upcoming events and exhibitions​.

Additional Tips

Visitors are encouraged to check the museum’s official website for the latest information on special exhibitions, events, and any potential changes to operating hours. The website also provides details on membership programs, volunteer opportunities, and ways to support the museum through donations.


The Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art represents the dedication and vision of its founder, Jacques Marchais. Located on Lighthouse Hill in Staten Island, the museum provides a unique view into the cultural heritage of Tibet, Nepal, and northern China. With its Tibetan-inspired design, extensive collection, and varied educational programs, the museum serves as an important resource for those interested in Himalayan art and culture​.

Despite challenges such as limited parking and a remote location, the museum continues to draw visitors and scholars. Its programs, peaceful setting, and comprehensive collection make it a valuable destination for learning about Tibetan art and spirituality​.

Visitors are encouraged to explore the museum, participate in its programs, and consider becoming members or volunteers. Supporting the museum helps in the preservation and promotion of Tibetan culture and contributes to its mission of fostering global appreciation and understanding​.

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