The Pacific Asia Museum is designed to look like a Chinese villa. It was built in 1929 as the home and sales galleries of Grace Nicholson, an early dealer of oriental and western art. The museum galleries surround an inner courtyard garden with a koi pond that is peaceful and fun to look at. The onsite Chinese Garden is an exhibit in itself, featuring architectural elements, sculptures and plants that play a significant role. A zigzag bridge is located in the garden and supposedly prevents evil from making its way into the garden. There are deer sculptures found nearby that signify long life and lotuses that symbolize purity and the potential for enlightenment.
The museum is relatively small in size, with a half dozen galleries around the courtyard which display the art and cultural elements of Asia and the Pacific Islands. There are rotating themed exhibits that are created from the Pacific Asia Museum's collection of 14,000 artistic works and artifacts. An onsite gift site is open to the museum's visitors and offers a small selection of books, handcrafts, Asian antiques and photographs, and Asian replicas. Guest lectures and programs are available at the museum and some are offered for a small fee or admission charge.