The founding of the Jersey City Museum dates back to 1901 when the collection was located on the fourth floor of the Jersey City Free Public Library on Jersey Avenue. It remained under the aegis of the library until 1987 when the Museum Association initiated the founding of a separate institution.
In 1993, the Jersey City Redevelopment Agency donated the building at 350 Montgomery Street for the local museum as a private non-profit corporation. Its mission was to serve the community by "maintaining, preserving, and interpreting the region's cultural heritage."
The cream-colored brick building on Montgomery Street, a former post office warehouse (circa 1929), was renovated for $6.5 million. The New York architect, Charles Gifford of Meyer & Gifford, designed the interior as a modern space enhanced by a skylight lobby, galleries, 152-seat theater, gift shop, and workshop for the 10,000-piece collection.
The new museum opened on September 19, 2001. It featured two exhibits, "Ben Shahn and the Passion of Sacco and Vanzetti" and "Catalina Parra: It's Indisputable," as well as "Highlights from the Permanent Collection." The exhibit showed sixteen of Shahn's original art pieces that appeared in 1932 at New York City's Downtown Art Gallery. A Lithuanian immigrant, Shahn (1898-1969) briefly lived in New Jersey. Catalina Parra's exhibit offered fifty collages in five series by the Chilean-born artist. The paintings of local artist August Will (1834-1916) from the museum's permanent collection were displayed. They depict views of Jersey City at the turn of the twentieth century.
Funding for the museum declined during the post-9/11 decade. In December 2011, under threat of foreclosure, the museum board sold the building to Jersey City Medical Center-Barnabas Health for office space on the upper floors. The museum leased the first floor for exhibits. The arrangement did not prove satisfactory and the museum closed. In 2018, the Jersey City Museum collection went to the Zimmerli Art Museum/Rutgers University in New Brunswick.
Kocut, Marion, ed. First Look: The Essential Guide to Jersey City Museum. Jersey City, NJ: Jersey City Museum, 2006.
Wright, E. Assata, "JC Museum Plans 'Quiet' Reopening But Questions Still Linger Regarding Art Collection Inventory." Jersey City Reporter, June 3, 2012.