Education and Outreach
A visit to the museum is an education in itself! We'll also come to you and disseminate information via talks, handling sessions etc. Find out about our work to facilitate learning on these pages.
Lectures and talks
Press and Media Coverage
Lectures and talks
The Museum Curator is available to give lectures to academic conferences and/or informal groups. On this page you can see a list of recent lectures and read feature articles based on some of them (adapted for publication on the web). Titles, which event organisers may care to note are often suitable for repetition, have included:
- To the British Society for the History of Pharmacy
- Artificial Eyes and the Artificialisation of the Human Face
- To the Society for the Social History of Medicine
- Documenting collections
- To the Ophthalmic Antiques International Collectors' Club
- The Tyranny of Treatment - Eyecare and Eyewear in the age of Dr Johnson
- Public talk at the Dr Johnson's House Museum
- Identifying ophthalmic museum objects
- To the Social History Curators Group
- What's in a name? - What is and What was an Optician?
- To the Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Society (28 October 2005)
- What's in a name? - What is and What was an Optician?
- Repeated to the Ashridge Circle (12 April 2006)
- More than "A Blessing to the Aged" - The Worshipful Company of Spectacle Makers
- At the Mini Conference on the London Guilds: Scientific Instrument Society and the Worshipful Society of Scientific Instrument Makers (4 July 2008)
- Cosmetic Contact Lenses - From Protective Shells to Cat's Eyes
- At the Conference on The Body: Simulacra and Simulation - Models, Prosthetics and Interventions, XIV Congress of the European Association of Museums of the History of Medical Sciences, Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh (18 September 2008)
- Squinting at the Past
- Lunchtime talk at Bruce Castle Museum, Tottenham (23 February 2009)
- Eyecare: Past and Present
- Lunchtime talk to the Tuesday Club at the Bloomsbury Friendship Centre (23 June 2009)
- Some Remarks on the Role of Opticians in Supplying the 'Business' of Astronomy
- At the conference on the Society for the History of Astronomy, National Maritime Museum, Greenwich (18 July 2009)
- Taking a Contact Lens History - The Object Approach
- To the British Contact Lens Association Pioneers Conference at the Royal Society of Medicine (26 November 2009)
- Keeping it in the Family: The Dollonds and Microscopy
- To the Royal Society (at the Royal College of Surgeons of England) (25 March 2010)
- Men Seldom Make Passes at Girls Who Wear Glasses
- To London Ladies Luncheon Club (15 April 2010)
- The Henry Blackham Collection
- To the Ophthalmic Antiques International Collectors' Club (9 May 2010)
- The History of Spectacles - What We Know and What We Don't - To the Hounslow branch of the University of the Third Age (U3A) (25 October 2010)
- The Joy of Specs, Vision Aids Now and Then - To the Welwyn-Hatfield branch of the University of the Third Age (U3A) (3 November 2010)
- Preserving and Presenting Historical Ocular Prosthetics - To a Wellcome-funded seminar on Transforming the Human Body held at Liverpool Hope University (12 November 2010)
- An Optical House Beautiful - To the Christ Church Fellowship, Chelsea (25 January 2011)
- Looking across the Atlantic - American Links in the Collections of the British Optical Association Museum - To the Ocular Heritage Society of America, Millenniunm Bostonian Hotel, Boston (9 April 2011)
- No Longer the Oldest Name on the High Street - To the William Shipley Group for RSA History (17 May 2011)
- To Wear or Not to Wear? Changing social norms with regard to eyewear - Gresham College public lecture (21 March 2012)
- The Inside View - Writing a book about the history of spectacles - To the Ocular Heritage Society of America, Case Western University, Cleveland, Ohio (21 April 2012)
- Some Milestones on the Road to Scientific Refraction - To the 90th Anniversary Symposium of the Optisches Museum Jena, Germany (13 October 2012)
- The Joy of Specs, Vision Aids Now and Then - To the Chalfont St Peter and Gerrards Cross History Society (30 November 2012)
- Spectacles through the Ages - To The Macular Society (High Wycombe Support Group), Wesley Methodist Hall, High Wycombe (9 April 2013)
- Promoting 1950s British Spectacles the American Way - The Evidence from the Batemans Scrapbook - To the Ocular Heritage Society of America, Renaissance Hotel, Baltimore, Maryland (27 April 2013)
The museum's Meeting Room Tours also include a curator's talk. Groups to have visited the museum recently include:
- Ophthalmic Antiques International Collectors' Club
- Plastics Historical Society
- Lycée Victor Bérard, Morez (France)
- The Georgian Group
- Scientific Instrument Society
- University of the Third Age
- The Ashridge Circle
- Highams Park City Technology College (AS Level Physics)
- The Naborhood Daycare Centre (Adults with learning disabilities)
- The Nulife Centre
- Association of Independent Optometrists
- League of Excellence Tutorial College
- The London Friendship Centre
- Havering Adult College
- Barnet College
- Sparta History Society
- Johnson & Johnson Visioncare
- London Explorers
- Austrian Embassy Commercial Section - Delegation of Austrian optometrists
- London Appreciation Society
- City of London Guide Lecturers Association
- London Borough of Richmond Social Service Department
- City of Westminster Guide Lecturers Association
- Beckenham U3A
- The Royal Society
- Historical Medical Equipment Society
- Friends of the V&A Museum
- Urban Explorers
- London Ladies Club
- Thorpe Bay U3A
- Friends of Dulwich Picture Gallery
- National Trust for Scotland - London Group
- Delegation of hospital administrators from Shandong Province, China
- London College of Beauty
- Department for Culture, Media and Sport
- London Appreciation Society (repeat visit)
- South Croydon U3A
- Friends of the Royal Academy
- Stevenage U3A Industrial History Group
- William Shipley Group for RSA History
- The Art Fund
- Kings College Hospital Orthoptics Department
- Sight Care Group
- Bromley U3A
- Sally Ward Group
- Swiss Cottage School (SEN) - view their amazing spectacle frame designs
- Kingston University Art Foundation Course
- Fetcham and Leatherhead U3A
- The Eltham Society
- Tonbridge U3A
- Raynes Park Townswomen's Guild
- Stanmore Strollers
- Walthamstow Historical Society
- Gants Hill Townswomens Guild
- Eurocentres Language School
- The John Neal Adult Education Group
- DHTA Optician's English course, Utrecht
- Bromley Cardiac Group
|We said 'Nihao' to this Chinese group
|And 'Goede dag' to this Dutch group
For more information on booking tours see our visiting pages.
The Museum sometimes has a presence at external heritage events where we may take pictorial display boards, objects and demonstration items. Plus, every September we take part in the Open House London series of architectural open days.
Recent events have included:
- Syon House Medieval Archaeology Day
- Who Do You Think You Are? ancestry and history event
- Guided tour of the Hunterian Museum with particular emphasis on scientific instruments
- Guided tour of the Science Museum with particular emphasis on ophthalmic and eye-related exhibits
- Four Liveries Lecture (12 May 2008) - Did you see our telescope there?
- Low Vision for Optometrists book launch
- Optometry Tomorrow, York Racecourse (April 2010)
- The Historic Medical Equipment Society (HMES) held its meeting at the British Optical Association Museum (15 April 2011).
- The MIMSY XG User Group held its meeting at the British Optical Association Museum (13 May 2011).
We also participate in events held under the umbrella of the London Museums of Health and Medicine including the regular 'London Maze' local history and archives events.
Press and Media Coverage
The Curator is also readily available for press and tv/radio interviews on matters directly pertaining to the HISTORY of the subject. (On other matters please contact the College Press Office).
Recent broadcast media coverage has included:
- CBC Radio (Canada) Bunny Watson Show. The curator was interviewed by Bill Richardson about the eighteenth century itinerant oculist and quack John Taylor, whose botched cataract operations ruined the sight of both Bach and Handel.
- Discovery Channel. The BOA collections were used for a three-minute programme spacer on the History of Spectacles.
- BBC Radio 4. Morning With Snow. Inspired by a newspaper cutting from 1694, Peter Snow visited the museum to look at seventeenth century eyewear and learn about John Yarwell who pioneered automated lens production.
- BBC Radio 4. Inventors Imperfect. Adam Hart-Davis called on the College to review the shaky evidence that Benjamin Franklin actually invented bifocals.
- BBC World Service 'Outlook'. Anne Khazam visited the museum to try on some monocles and was surprised to discover their popularity as a fashion item for young American women around 1900.
- ITV London 'Off the Beaten Track'. Nigel Farrell entered 'The World of Eyeballs', visited the Print Room, tried out a test-your-sight machine, colour-matched an artificial eye and re-enacted the discovery of our Scarlett-type spectacles.
- BBC 2. 'Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is'. Antique fashion expert Katherine Higgins invited a collector of vintage sunglasses to the museum to inspect some Ray-Bans she had picked up at a Parisian street market. (May 2010)
- BBC Radio London. 'The Robert Elms Show'. Museum Curator Neil Handley visited Broadcasting House to discuss some London-made spectacles as well as contact lenses, monocles and turtles! (21 September 2010)
- Sky News. 'Sunrise'. Entertainment correspondent Lucy Cotter interviewed Rob Spence, the human 'Eyeborg' at the museum. Spence lost the sight in his right eye in a shooting accident and has now had it replaced with a video camera in order to make a unique documentary. (26 August 2011). View the report here
- BBC1. 'A Picture of Health'. Presenter Larry Lamb and veteran actor Derek Fowlds reminisced about changes in eyecare services since the advent of the NHS. Neil Handley discussed the stigma attached to NHS glasses and snippets were shown from the British Pathe archive including one film made at the British Optical Association's headquarters in 1963. (2 March 2012)
- China Central TV Europe. Jiming Shan filmed for a news piece about Jost Haas the London-based artificial eye maker who still uses the traditional glass blowing technique.
(We have videos or audio-recordings of these programmes available for viewing or listening).
Recent print coverage has included:
- 'Vintage Glasses', Financial Times, 4 April 2009: Curator Neil Handley was interviewed by journalist Simon Brooke on the subject of the rapid growth in the market for retro-styled spectacles or even for having actual antique frames glazed for modern wear.
- 'Feel Hen-Pecked? Better get some chicken glasses', Metro, 19 April 2011: Curator Neil Handley commented on the discovery of some 1950s rooster blinkers dug up in Nottingham and now destined for the museum collection.
- 'College History Man Deserves a Big Hand', Optician, 31 August 2012. Joe Ayling wrote about upcoming improvements at the museum and the work of artist in residence Patrice Moor including a painting of the curator's hand.