Jacques Marchais was one of the earliest collectors of Tibetan art in the United States. In 1938, she established an art gallery in Manhattan which specialized in the art of India and Tibet. Although she never traveled to Tibet, she amassed one of the earliest collections of Tibetan art in the United States. As she acquired items through auctions and estate sales – she would often keep the best pieces for her private collection.
In her lifetime, Jacques Marchais amassed a collection of over one thousand objects. The collection includes sculpture, ritual objects, musical instruments, thangkas or scroll paintings and furniture. The objects are primarily from Tibet, Nepal, northern China, and Mongolia, and a few items are from Southeast Asia. The Museum was chartered in 1945, the same year the first of the two buildings was completed.
The collection has been on view to the public since the Museum’s official opening in 1947. 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 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.