About Us

About the Tibet Museum

The Tibet Museum of the Department of Information and International Relations, Central Tibetan Administration, was established in 1998 with the purpose to document, preserve, research, exhibit and educate Tibetans and non-Tibetans on all matters related to Tibet’s history, culture and present situation.

The Tibet Museum being located in the Main Temple complex in McLeod Ganj, Dharamsala is visited by thousands of foreigners, Tibetans and Indians every year. The museum’s beautiful building, location and the wealth of knowledge makes it a must-see for anyone living in or visiting Dharamsala.

Currently we have closed the our museum at Mcleod Ganj and shifted to Gangchen Kyishong, Central Tibetan Administration, near Library of Tibetan Works & Archive.

The Tibet Museum is more than a space for exhibitions, installations and lectures. It also provides a platform for educational activities relating to Tibetan history – through in-house activities and special events, traveling museum kits, catalogs, and various other publications.

We believe that knowing the past gives strength and guidance for the future and hope our museum will be instrumental in both these aspects.

Location

Mission:

The Tibet Museum is a museum made by and for Tibetans. It aims to challenge the representations of Tibetan people that feature in museums in China, Europe, and North America. Here, we tell a different story. Tibet in this museum has a past, a present, and a future. Through objects, archives, photographs, and personal testimonies we highlight Tibet’s historical, political, and international importance by showcasing our culture, recent history in exile, and the teachings and legacy of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. We also address the many crises facing Tibetans in Tibet today such as human rights abuses, exploitation of the environment, and curbs on cultural preservation.

The Tibet Museum highlights our cultural and political struggle and our resilience. The objective of the museum is to educate, increase awareness of Tibet, and tell our story of exile to a global audience.

 

Museum Structure

Permanent Museum Section:

The Museum’s main exhibition “I am Tibetan, This is My Story”, is divided into the following ten sections:

1. Tibet: Our Culture
An introduction to the idea of Tibetan culture as an act of resistance. Drawing on Lhakar, a Tibetan-led, non-violent protest movement, the displays celebrate Tibet’s rich culture through dress, religion, food, and literature. The displays also highlight the many ways Tibetan culture has been rebuilt and preserved by Tibetans in exile.

2. Who Writes Tibet’s History?
This section includes a detailed timeline of important moments in the history of Tibet, from the first Tibetan king to the Chinese invasion in 1950. This section also showcases objects, films, and documents that testify to Tibet’s status as an independent nation.

3. Who is the Dalai Lama?
A focus on the life and work of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. We trace out the history of the Dalai Lama lineage and include 108 questions and answer interactive that focus on the Dalai Lama’s life and messages and his international influence and impact.

4. Occupation
This section bears witness to China’s occupation of Tibet and its devastating aftermath. Through photographs, objects, and historical documents, the display examines the impact of the ‘Seventeen-Point Agreement’, the ‘Democratic Reform’, and the ‘Cultural Revolution’ on Tibetan governance and culture.

5. Resistance
Here we call attention to Tibetan resistance to China’s policies in Tibet. We draw on key moments in the fight for resistance – the 1959 uprising, the Mustang resistance, the Nyemo revolt, and the 1987, 1988, 1989, and 2008 uprisings in Tibet. Through commissioned film, personal testimony and photography the displays ask for quiet and respectful consideration of the many ways Tibetans have resisted China’s continuing occupation of Tibet.

6. Escape
This section documents the difficult journeys undertaken by Tibetans who left Tibet for exile. Using personal testimonies, film, donated objects, and photographs the displays map out the many reasons why Tibetans left Tibet and the dangers faced along the way. This section also includes an Archive of Escape, a chance for the visitor to record their personal and family memories of escaping and traveling to safety.

7. Exile
A reflection on the Tibetan exile experience. We shed light on rebuilding Tibetan society in exile, the creation of a Tibetan Government in Exile, and, through a series of visual histories and personal testimonies, how Tibetans re-established cultural institutions across India and the wider world.

8. Tibet Today
The impact of China’s policies on Tibet today. Using personal testimony, the research of human rights groups, and investigative journalism the displays map out some of the tools used by China’s Communist Party to repress Tibetan culture while at the same time turning Tibet into a police state whose people are under constant surveillance.

9. The Environment
China’s impact on Tibet’s environment with concern over large-scale deforestation, mining and dam projects, and the impact of glacial melting on Tibet and its neighboring countries, including India. The displays also ask visitors to reflect on Tibet’s importance as the Earth’s ‘Third Pole’ and provider of fresh water and food security for over a billion people in nations across South and East Asia.

10. Being Tibetan
In this section, visitors are introduced to a new generation of Tibetans who are re-defining and re-imagining what it is to be Tibetan. Here, we showcase the success stories of Tibetans living around the world in the fields of literature, arts, sports, medicine, music, education, academia, and politics.

Special Temporary Exhibitions:
The Tibet Museum will feature a dedicated and permanent space for temporary exhibitions, ensuring a
a changing program of themed exhibitions on historical and contemporary issues important to Tibet.

Auditorium:
• Daily documentary film screening at 3 pm.
• Tibet awareness talk series, every Friday at 3 pm.

Digital Room/Reflection Room:
• Oral history kiosks.
• Quiet space to reflect and consider the museum experience.
• Library/testimony/family educational activity area.

Other Space Includes:
• Welcome desk for visitor services and information
• Gift shop/bookstore
• Public Bathroom

The Photographic Archive Section:

The Tibet Museum Photographic Archive section has a collection of more than 30,000 rare photographs, slides, and negatives of historic and contemporary images of Tibet. Photographs as old as dating back to the times of the 13th Dalai Lama and many rare photographs of independent Tibet are also part of the archive. The archive is important historical documentation and a vital asset for the Tibet Museum. The photographs are used for exhibitions, books, and other printed material published by the Tibet Museum.  The also serves as an important repository and point of reference for the media, publication agencies, researchers, and the public worldwide. The Photographic Archive is located in a Museum Administration Office near the DIIR’s main office, in Gangchen Kyishong, Dharamsala, India.

Traveling Exhibition:

Just as the Tibet Museum complex provides an effective means of presenting Tibet’s history, culture, and challenges to people visiting Dharamsala; the traveling exhibition of the Tibet Museum brings Tibet’s story to people throughout the world. The museum staff regularly visits schools, settlements and monasteries, and cities in India, to showcase photo exhibitions related to Tibet’s history, culture, the current situation inside Tibet, and the way of life in exile. The traveling exhibitions are also enhanced by a screening of documentary movies (on Tibet’s history, culture, and current situation)

Team Members

Mr. Tenzin Topdhen, Director.

Responsible for overall administration of the Tibet Museum, as well as new Museum digital production and program.

Ms. Kunga Choedon, Production and Collection Assistant

Responsible for the collection, preservation and cataloging artifacts, as well as assisting during the traveling exhibitions.

Tsering Norbu, Production and Research Assistant

Responsible for assisting the production officer, database and website management as well as assisting during the traveling exhibitions.

Mr. Karma Tashi, Archivist

Responsible for the preservation and collection of the museum’s images, as well as assisting during the traveling exhibitions.

Mr. Tenzin Jinpa. Curator & Conservator

Responsible for the conservation program, artefact management and assist during travelling exhibitions.

Mr. Tenzin Khentse. Accountant & Project Manager.

Responsible for Project Management, as well as assisting during the traveling exhibitions.

Mrs. Phuntsok Paldon, New Museum Receptionist.

Responsible for assisting the museum visitors coordinator.

Mrs. Dawa Tsamchoe, Assistant to Museum’s Docent

Responsible for assisting the museum visitors coordinator and museum maintenance.

History

The Tibet museum was established with the aim of presenting Tibet’s history and visions for its future through texts, photographs, videos and installations. The museum features our main exhibition, “A long look homeward”. It is divided into two sections: the first floor presents the Chinese occupation of Tibet and its results, and the second one displays Tibet’s past and hopes for its future. In addition, the museum hosts a memorial for the 1.2 million Tibetans who died as a result of the Chinese occupation of Tibet, a remembrance and hope butter-lamp display, and a testimony corner where Tibetans can provide names of relatives and friends who died as a result of the Chinese occupation. The small lecture hall is used for showing various historical films on Tibet, lectures and presentations relating to Tibetan history and culture. Catering to the diverse audience of visitors to Dharamsala, all the textual presentations in the museum are given in three languages: Tibetan, English and Hindi. The Tibet Museum is more than a space for exhibitions, installations and lectures. It also provides a platform for educational activities relating to Tibetan history – through in-house activities and special events, traveling museum kits, catalogs, and various other publications. We believe that knowing the past gives strength and guidance for the future. We hope our museum will be instrumental in both these aspects.

 

In 1959, after the 10 March uprisings in Lhasa, China’s Communist Party took political control of Tibet. This followed a decade of increasingly violent occupation and the destruction of monasteries, mass killings of Tibetans, and a crackdown on religious freedom. On 17 March 1959, His Holiness the Dalai Lama began his escape into exile, his destination was India. His small entourage was eventually followed into exile by more than 150,000 Tibetans. In 1960, His Holiness the Dalai Lama established the Tibetan Government in Exile (later known as the Central Tibetan Administration or CTA) in Dharamshala, northern India. The CTA’s mission is to preserve Tibetan culture, religion, language and identity, and to work towards the restoration of freedom for Tibetan people while also supporting Tibetans living in exile.

 

In 1998, the Department of Information and International Relations (DIIR) of the then Tibetan Government in Exile established the original Tibet Museum in McLeod Ganj. Its aim was to introduce Tibetans and non- Tibetans alike to Tibet’s recent history, with an emphasis on China’soccupation of Tibet, through the personal accounts of twelve Tibetan curators. Like the Tibet Museum today, its goal was to educate a global community about the human rights violations committed by China’s Communist Party against the Tibetan people. Alongside this it highlighted the democratic struggle of the Tibetan freedom movement and the nonviolent resistance of the Tibetan people inside and outside of Tibet. The Tibet Museum was inaugurated by His Holiness the Dalai Lama on 30 April 2000.

 

In 2017, the CTA announced plans to build a new Tibet Museum in Gangchen Kyishong, Dharamshala, the seat of Central Tibetan Administration. After several years of research and development the new Tibet Museum was completed in January 2022 and inaugurated by Sikyong Penpa Tsering on 27 January 2022.