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Medical instrument collections are neglected primary source material that can be used to produce original scholarship on the
history of medicine and the history of optometry. Opening museum collections and associated archives to researchers allows
collections managers to simultaneously address curatorial backlogs, facilitate research, and provide a foundation for crafting
public-facing exhibits. In order to add to the historiography, research should not only focus on the technical aspects of the
instruments, but also employ theory to examine of the meaning of the objects in context. In this way, objects can be a vehicle for
understanding broader themes in the history of medicine and reveal their utility as material evidence of the impact of medicine
on society and culture. This two-part article includes a historiography of ophthalmic instruments and a case study in which an assemblage of ophthalmometers in the Archives & Museum of Optometry collection are treated as “text” to explore the nature of power in the doctor-patient relationship in early optometry.