The Challenge of Preserving the Artifacts of Optometric History

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Barry L. Cole, A.O., Ph.D., M.App.Sc., BS.c., LOS.c


This paper looks at optometry museums around the world. There are only five general optometry museums: three are hosted by optometric institutions in three countries, Australia, Britain and the U.S.A., one is hosted by a Canadian university that has an optometry school, and one is in private hands in Southbridge, Massachusetts. They are supplemented by six excellent corporate museums in France, Germany and Italy, but these museums focus on either spectacles or ophthalmic instruments, rather than optometry in general. Two of the optometry museums were founded over 100 years ago, and two have had their 50th birthday, but can they survive forever? Museums are expected to preserve collections for posterity for the edification and enjoyment of future generations, yet all institutions are at risk of disruption: few institutions last more than a couple of hundred years. This paper discusses strategies optometry museums might pursue to guard against mismanagement and neglect and provide for the protection of their collections in the event of the demise of the museum or its host institution.


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How to Cite
Cole, B. (2019). The Challenge of Preserving the Artifacts of Optometric History. Hindsight: Journal of Optometry History, 50(3), 66-73.
Author Biography

Barry L. Cole, A.O., Ph.D., M.App.Sc., BS.c., LOS.c, Cyril Kett Optometry Museum, Australian College of Optometry

Barry Cole was the foundation Professor of Optometry at the University of Melbourne and is now Professor Emeritus. He was also the Director of the Australian College of Optometry from 1964 to 1998. He has long had an inclination to history and tended to regale his students with the historical origins of present knowledge when teaching visionĀ science and optometry. His interest in history was fostered by studying history and philosophy of science and history of art in a never competed BA degree. On retirement he became a volunteer archivist in the Cyril Kett Optometry Museum.