Places that Matter

Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art

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Museum and meditation garden, Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art
Museum and meditation garden, Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art
Library exterior and flags, Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art
Museum and the garden in the snow, Breanne Scanlon
Wiintertime, Breanne Scanlon
Opening day Oct 5, 1947, Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art
Library interior 1947, Jacques Marchai Museum of Tibetan Art
Unique museum of Tibetan and Buddhist works planned and built by Jacques Marchais in the 1940s
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Place Matters Profile

By Breanne Scanlon

Tucked away behind a stone wall on a hillside on Staten Island is an unlikely enclave of Tibetan art, culture, and spirituality. The story of the Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art is inseparable from the story of Jacques Marchais, a woman who devoted her life to sharing her passion for Tibet and Buddhism with other New Yorkers.

The Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art, now in its sixty-first year, was designed and built according to Marchais' vision and instructions. The museum was the culmination of Marchais' lifelong mission to connect Westerners with Tibetan culture and spirituality. Jacques Marchais Coblentz was born in 1887 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Her father insisted on giving her the male family name of Jacques Marchais despite the fact that she was a girl.) Marchais' first introduction to Tibetan art was as a young girl, when she came across her great-grandfather's collection of bronze figurines, acquired during his time spent as a sea-merchant near India and China. She later said that she felt immediately drawn to these figurines and that this was the first step in a lifelong love affair with Tibetan art.

Marchais was a successful theater actress from her childhood through her early adult years. After a failed marriage, during which she gave birth to two daughters and a son, Marchais married Harry Klauber around 1920 and moved from Illinois to New York City. Klauber, a Brooklyn native who worked in the chemical business, provided Marchais with the financial support necessary to pursue her interest in Buddhism and Eastern culture.