The British Optical Association Museum

Welcome to the British Optical Association Museum at The College of Optometrists, the museum of the eye care professions. Founded in 1901, it is the oldest museum of ophthalmic optics (optometry) in the world. Our remarkable collection comprises over twenty eight thousand outstanding items, including historic vision aids, spectacle frames and lenses, as well as diagnostic and sight-testing equipment, protective shades and goggles and gruesome models of ocular disease. We like to say that it’s the only museum where the exhibits look at you! 

We illustrate the story of eye care and eyewear through regularly refreshed displays of objects, rare books, prints, photographs, historic trade literature, advertisements and works of art. It is simultaneously a museum of the history of science, medicine, design and fashion, with much to tell on the representation of sensory impairment and professional responses to visual disability. We are an accredited museum, open to the public in our beautiful historic premises in the very centre of London. Anyone may visit but to come and see us you need to book a guided tour in advance. 

In this section

The museum’s maintain a combined museum collection and archive, comprising over twenty eight thousand historical items relating to the diagnosis and correction of refractive error, visual impairment and ocular disease.

Our collections are a nationally important resource for learning about the history and practice of optometry, ophthalmic optics and related subjects. Our role is to promote the optometry profession and raise public awareness of its past and present importance to society.

The British Optical Association Museum is located in a charming Georgian house, just off Strand in Central London. We are happy to offer guided tours of the museum and exhibitions to individuals and groups who book in advance.

Over hundreds of years spectacles have developed into the stylish and functional designs seen today.

Remembering the lives and careers of our members and fellows.

Contact us

Neil Handley PhD, AMA, FRSA 
Museum Curator 
British Optical Association Museum 
The College of Optometrists 
42 Craven Street, London, WC2N 5NG United Kingdom 

T: +44 (0)20 7766 4353  

Monday-Friday 10.00am-5.00pm 


Twitter: @CollegeOptomUK (#musEYEum) 

Instagram: @collegeofoptometrists and @musEYEum (#musEYEum)

Optical museum news

The College of Optometrists will be opening its doors to visitors once again as part of the Open House London event on Sunday 10 September.

College museum curator, Dr Neil Handley, talks to BBC's Charlotte Stavrou about the history of spectacles.

Listen to our podcast

Podcast: Having recently stepped down from her role after nearly 20 years as The College's Clinical Adviser, Dr Susan Blakeney FCOptom takes a historical trip down memory lane with our Museum Curator, Neil Handley.

Podcast: Following on from London Fashion week, Neil Handley, Curator of the College Museum, discusses the history of spectacles with Daniel, exploring their unique status as a medical device and fashion accessory.

Podcast: Museum curator, Neil Handley, interviews the College's artist in residence for 2019, Iluá Hauck da Silva. Iluá talks about the inspiration for her work, including growing up a medical household and her own vision problems.