A joint meeting of the Ophthalmic Antiques International Collectors' Club and the Ocular Heritage Society of America will take place in London from Thursday 23 April to Sunday 26 April 2020, hosted by the British Optical Association Museum at the College of Optometrists.
The meetings of the OHS and OAICC will take place consecutively in Central London between Thursday 23 April and Sunday 26 April 2020, with members of each organisation invited to join the other (particularly on the Saturday and Sunday). The programme will include museum visits, industrial visits, a day of historical talks, the annual general meetings of both societies, an antiques auction and a banquet. Attendance is open to members of either the OAICC or OHS.
Welcome to London
London is the birthplace of the first modern eyewear designed for continuous use (the Scarlett-type spectacle) as well as such classic items known to the collectors of ophthalmic antiques as Martin’s Margins, Ayscough sides and (probably) the Franklin-type split bifocal. The Worshipful Company of Spectacle Makers (1629) is the oldest still operating eyesight organisation in the world and the British Optical Association (1895) was the world’s first professional qualifying association for optometry. Its eponymous museum (1901), the very first of its type to be opened to the public, still survives at the College of Optometrists. The story continues, with new spectacle factories opening in London in the 21st century and British eyewear design in high demand across the world.
The Ophthalmic Antiques International Collectors' Club (OAICC) was founded in the UK in 1982 by a group of ophthalmic and dispensing opticians with an enthusiasm for the material history of their trade and profession, but now has a worldwide membership including the full range of eyecare professionals and interested lay people, many of whom maintain personal collections of antique eyewear or optical devices and all of whom have a passion for history. The OAICC meets every year at the College of Optometrists and has also visited many British and European locations where historic items from public museums or private collections may be viewed.
The Ocular Heritage Society of America (OHS), now more commonly known as just the Ocular Heritage Society, was founded in 1984 by a group of ophthalmologists, optometrists, opticians and others with an interest in ophthalmic history and ocular collectables. The annual meeting, with a symposium of papers on historic themes, rotates to different locations where ophthalmic and optical related collections can be viewed. It last met in London in 1995.
To take part in the first two days of the meeting (Thursday 23 and Friday 24 April) you need to be a member of the OHS. Annual membership is open to individuals and couples from any country for $50 (the fee covers up to two people attending the meeting together). Members of the OAICC will be invited to take part in these activities without need of any additional membership subscription, but only where the number of places allows. Priority for places will always be given to OHS members.
The third day of the meeting (Saturday 25 April) is an OHS event but members of the OAICC are invited to attend as guests of the Society. There is no limit on places, but you'll still need to book.
The fourth day of the meeting (Sunday 26 April) is an OAICC event but members of the OHS are invited to attend as guests of the Club. There is no limit on places, but you'll still need to book.
How do I book?
Booking is by the paper form emailed to OHS members on 10 December 2019 and that due to be mailed by post to OAICC members in January 2020. These two forms differ but you should use only one of them:
OHS: If you are a member of the OHS resident in North America please use the OHS form to ensure priority booking and to pay in US dollars. The all-in package costs $360 with an optional extra charge for dinner on the Sunday evening.
OAICC: If you are a member of the OAICC resident anywhere else in the world, please use the OAICC form to pay in GB pounds sterling, but note that certain activities may be number-capped in which case priority will be given to 1) OHS members and 2) OAICC members travelling from overseas. This is why the costs for OAICC members are split across four single-day packages. There is no cap, however, on numbers for the Saturday and Sunday activities and so all OAICC members are encouraged at least to sign up for both the weekend days.
But I'm not yet a member of either the OHS or the OAICC? Get off your butt and join!!!
A Powerpoint presentation was delivered to OHS members attending the meeting in Toledo, Ohio on Saturday 27 April 2019 and to OAICC members attending the meeting in London on Sunday 19 May 2019. Initial feedback from these presentations suggests that we will have plenty of interest in attending next April.
2020 Antique Vision Programme Schedule
(As with all programmes, this may be subject to change as the event approaches)
Wednesday 22 April 2020
For those travelling from the USA or other long distances, today is an arrival day.
There is no formal programme, but an informal dinner (each person pays for themself) will be arranged in the early evening if there is demand for it.
(9.15am) Curator-led guided tour of the College Print Room, Panelled Room and Council Room. Experience the College's fine collection of paintings, engravings, ceramics, sculpture and numismatics
(10.30am) Coach departs
(12.00pm) Buffet lunch at The London Apprentice, Isleworth. This historic riverside pub dates back to 1739. The name derives from the apprentices who departed from this site to travel to the City of London for admittance to the relevant trade guild and then returned to celebrate with a drink or two. The pub sign features the portrait of the optician John Cuff (1708-1772) 'the best Workman of his Trade in London', Master of the Worshipful Company of Spectacle Makers in 1748. Delegates may also want to view the adjacent All Saints Church which was originally attached to Syon Abbey and has 14th century features in an otherwise early 18th century building
(1.30pm) Arrive Syon Park. Free time to explore the grounds and conservatory, including the site where Thomas Harriot made the first telescopic observations of the moon in 1609
(2.30pm) Docent-led guided tour of Syon House, the London seat of the Dukes of Northumberland, including a special out-from-behind-glass viewing of the Syon Abbey spectacle fragments
(4.00pm) Coach departs
(4.15pm) Tour of the TD Tom Davies spectacle factory, 983 Great West Road, Brentford, TW8 9DN. This is an exclusive visit to an ultra-modern spectacle works, the first to open in London for some thirty years. For a taster see this online article
(10.00am) Visit to the Royal College of Ophthalmologists, to include a curator-led guided tour of the historical ophthalmic instrument collection and a sandwich lunch at noon. Note: This morning's visit is capped at a maximum of 25 participants. OHS members will have priority.
(2.00pm) Visit to the ALGHA spectacle factory, Bow. This is a fully-functioning 1920s factory with some examples of even older manufacturing equipment, transported from Germany after the First World War. It was the home of the famous M. Wiseman & Company Ltd and still makes traditional-style frames for sale at home and export abroad.
(6.30pm) Sit-down dinner at Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese Wine Office Court, 145 Fleet Street, London, EC4A 2BU (This meal may have to be capped at 30 participants). There are many historic literary connections to this 17th century pub with (mainly) 19th century internal fittings (Charles Dickens, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Mark Twain among them) and alleged links to Dr Johnson. The most recent of these (2011) is the American children's book The Cheshire Cheese Catby Carmen Agra Deedy and Randall Wright, illustrated by Barry Moser, which is set in the pub. Although it's pure fiction, obviously, Agatha Christie wrote that Hercule Poirot dined here too. We will have exclusive use of the Chop Room, but there are many other nooks and crannies to explore. Look out behind the bar for the stuffed remains of Polly the Parrot, who died in 1926. Sadly, the tradition of handing out free smoking materials has been discontinued.
Saturday 25 April 2020
(9.30am) Gather at the College of Optometrists, 42 Craven Street, London WC2N 5NG
(10.00am-5.00pm) Historical Talks and Craft Demonstrations. The College of Optometrists
Talks will include:
Jay Galst (NY, USA): 17th Century British Tokens Depicting Spectacles
Richard Keeler (London, UK): Ophthalmic Instruments in the Univesiteitsmuseum, Utrecht
Piet Meininger (Utrecht, Netherlands): The TABO Scheme - When did it begin?
(1.00pm) Buffet lunch
(5.00pm) AGM of the OHS, including SKYPE link-up with San Francisco
(7.00pm) 2020 Antique Vision Banquet (hot fork buffet, with cash bar): The Canterbury Suite, Amba Hotel Charing Cross. This beautiful room in the magnificent French Renaissance-style railway hotel built for Charing Cross Station in 1865, has views over the replica Eleanor Cross and across towards Trafalgar Square. The hotel is part of the development that swept away the former Northumberland House, the famous lion sculpture from which we will have seen on our visit to Syon two days earlier.
Sunday 26 April 2020
N.B. The London Marathon will also be taking place on this date. Some roads in Central London, including many close to the College of Optometrists, may be closed or have restricted access.
(9.00am) Gather at the College of Optometrists, 42 Craven Street, London WC2N 5NG
(9.15am) Curator-led guided tour of the British Optical Association Museum. Experience the College's collections of antique spectacles, vision aids, contact lenses, eyebaths (eyecups) and ocular prosthetics
[The museum remains open to meeting delegates for the rest of the day]
(11.00am) Group visit to the Benjamin Franklin House, 36 Craven Street, including tour by historically-costumed guide. Note numbers are limited. Priority will be given to OHS members.
Franklin lived here from 1757-1775, fleeing as the American revolutionary clouds began to descend (though his son remained loyal - splendid fellow). It is probably where he first began to wear bifocals (spectacles that may well have been made for him by Peter Dollond) and where he socialised with Sir Joshua Reynolds and Benjamin West. It was, in effect, the first American Embassy in London. The house is presented to visitors in an innovative 'museum as theatre' manner and covers the work of Franklin as a scientific investigator and friend to men and women of learning.
(12 noon) AGM of the OAICC. The College of Optometrists
(1.00pm) Buffet lunch. The College of Optometrists
(2.00pm) Presentations. Janet Parrott will give a talk on her astonishing collection of chatelaines
(2.30pm) Antiques Auction. The College of Optometrists
The meeting formally closes at 5pm
We know that many delegates will be heading for home straight away, but for those remaining overnight, you are invited to gather for dinner close by:
(6.00pm) Sit-down dinner at The Sherlock Holmes. (This meal may have to be capped at 20 participants).
The upstairs restaurant at this pub in Craven Passage includes a full-sized replica of 221b Baker Street, the famous fictional detective's sitting room in 1894, complete with a disconcerting mannequin of the great man himself. It includes props and artwork from screen and stage adaptations of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's stories, including a pipe, violin and scientific equipment. Look out for the promotional poster for The Adventure of the Golden Pince-Nez. The exhibit was originally prepared for the Festival of Britain in 1951 and the fact that it is showing its age rather adds to the charm. The author, of course, trained as an ophthalmologist in Vienna from 1890 and subsequently practised from Upper Wimpole St. but was essentially just a refractionist and struggled to make a living.
...and then we all start planning to meet in Washington DC in 2021.