The Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art was established in 1945 to present the art and culture of Tibet and the Himalayas to a world audience. The Museum fulfills this mission through careful stewardship of its collection of rare and valuable Tibetan Artifacts.
The Museum was established by Jacques Marchais (1887-1948), a remarkable American woman who was an early collector of Tibetan Art. Between 1920 – 1948, Marchais amassed a significant collection of Tibetan sculpture, paintings, ritual objects, decorative objects, furniture, photographs and books about the history of Tibet and the Himalayas. The collection has been on view to the public since the Museum’s official opening in 1947.
The artifacts in the collection represent the art of Tibet and those countries which fell within the sphere of Tibetan Buddhism, including Nepal, Bhutan, Mongolia and Northern China and date from the 12th through 20th century. These objects are beautifully crafted and were made for use in the monasteries of Tibet. Due to political activities in the region, many of the monasteries once housing these significant objects were destroyed and the cultural history of the Tibetan people is now preserved in museums outside of the region such as the Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art.
The Museum maintains a permanent exhibition of more than 125 objects and presents rotating exhibits that highlight specific examples of Tibetan and Himalayan culture. The collection includes many fine examples of bronze sculptures from Nepal dating from the 18th century and more than 125 thankga or scroll paintings backed with silk from the 18th and 19th centuries.
FROM THE ARCHIVES
The photographs shown below are from a 1935-1936 expedition to a remote area of eastern Tibet, record the adventures of 25 year old John Hanbury-Tracy and 26 year old Ronald Kaulback. With the backing of the British Royal Geographical Society, they went in search of the source of the Salween, one of the great rivers of Asia that originates in Tibet. At the time, on maps, the upper course of the Salween was an immense blank space.
Among the first Europeans to enter this area, for two years they had no contact with the outside world as they traveled across a rough and unforgiving terrain. Although they did not succeed in reaching the Salween’s origin due to impending war, they mapped 25,000 square miles and brought back specimens of plant and insect life for the British Museum of Natural History. Their photographs bring to life impressions of local villages, the river’s rope bridges, sturdy yaks, and the people of the upper Salween valley.
Hanbury-Tracy, who died in 1971, published the story of his journey in his Black River of Tibet in 1938. Kaulback also published his tale, a 1938 book, Salween. Their accounts and photographs record aspects of Tibetan culture now lost through political and cultural transformation of the region.
Many of these photographs, donated to the Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art by Sir Bryan Frasi were included in the Museum's 2005 exhibit, Exploring Tibet: In Search of the Salween.