"A Splendid Thing" Justifying the British Optical Association Museum and Library During its First Half Century

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Neil Handley, M.A., A.M.A.


This paper discusses the origins of the British Optical Association Museum and how it increased in prominence. Its value for matters such as historical research, pride of possession of members, publicity, recognition of the status of the profession, and demonstration of the long and distinguished history of the profession are examined. The arguments in support of the museum in the first half of the twentieth century by John Hamer Sutcliffe, and later his protégé George Giles, are highlighted.

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How to Cite
Handley, N. (2019). "A Splendid Thing". Hindsight: Journal of Optometry History, 50(3), 74-78. https://doi.org/10.14434/hindsight.v50i3.27565
Author Biography

Neil Handley, M.A., A.M.A., British Optical Association Museum

Neil Handley has been the Curator of the BOA Museum since 1999. The 'MusEYEum' a virtual museum website-within-a-website was established at Neil's instigation in 2003. Neil worked previously at the Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine at the University of Manchester on a project to plan the future for museum-quality collections within the various scientific and medical departments. He also worked for shorter spells at other museums in Manchester, Salford and the Isle of Man as well as for an interactive exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, just a few hundred yards from Craven Street. Neil was awarded the Associateship of the Museums Association in 2002 and was one of the first 17 museum professionals in the country to gain the AMA+ qualification in May 2007. He now serves as a Museums Association Mentor for younger curators.

Neil was elected Chairman of the prestigious London Museums of Health and Medicine (2011-14), widely considered within the profession to be one of the most dynamic and go-ahead museum specialist networks. He oversaw that organisation's first strategic review for fifteen years. He is also a past Vice Chairman of the Scientific Instrument Society and became a Fellow of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (FRSA) in 2012.

Neil has contributed to a number of books on the history of the subject, significant contributions being a chapter on artificial eyes for the book Devices and Designs (2006) and the major German publication Treasury of Optics (2012). He spent much of 2009 and 2010 writing a book on Cult Eyewear, the first serious analytical study of the historical development of branded fashion spectacle frames, published by Merrell on 27 September 2011. He also co-authored, with David Cartwright, the second volume of the College History, The College of Optometrists: A History 1998-2015, published in October 2015. He has also written articles for journals as diverse as Optometry in PracticeContact Lens and Anterior EyeOphthalmic and Physiological OpticsFrom the Master and Wardens (newsletter of the Worshipful Company of Spectacle Makers), Ophthalmic AntiquesGewina (Dutch Journal for the History of Science), Antiquarian Horology and Pharmaceutical Historian.