The founding of the Jersey City Museum dates back to 1901, when it 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 efforts for the founding of a separate institution.
In 1993, the Jersey City Redevelopment Agency donated the building at 350 Montgomery Street for the new arts institution as a private non-profit corporation. The cream-colored brick building, a former post office warehouse circa 1929, was renovated for $6.5 million. Designed by architect Charles Gifford of Meyer & Gifford of New York, the interior offers an attractive modern space enhanced by a skylight lobby. The museum holds a collection of 10,000 pieces. It has galleries, a 152-seat theater, and gift shop.
The mission of the museum is to serve the community by "maintaining, preserving, and interpreting the region's cultural heritage."
The new museum opened on September 19, 2001, at which time 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 Shahn exhibit included sixteen of his original works displayed in 1932 at the Downtown Art Gallery in New York City. A Lithuanian immigrant, Shahn (1898-1969) lived for a time in New Jersey. The Parra exhibit was a presentation of fifty collages in five series by the Chilean-born artist. Among the works featured in the permanent collection were those of local artist August Will (1834-1916), whose paintings captured views of Jersey City at the turn of the twentieth century.
Funding for the museum began to decline during the post-9/11 decade. In December 2011, under the threat of foreclosure, the museum's board of directors sold the building to Jersey City Medical Center-Barnabas Health for office space on the second and third floors. To preserve the museum and its collection, the museum leased the first floor of the building to continue with exhibits on a limited basis. The latter attempts proved unsuccessful and the future of the collection is pending.
Wright, E. Assata,"JC Museum Plans 'Quiet' Reopening But Questions Still Linger Regarding Art Collection Inventory." Jersey City Reporter, June 3, 2012.