Collections Development

Care to donate something? Not sure if it fits our remit? Can you insist something you give is displayed? (No, incidentally). Is there a danger we might get rid of your generous gift? The answers are all to be found in our formal collections development policy (what used to be called the 'acquisitions and disposals policy') which doubles as a rather handy description of the collection's various categories.

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The staff of E.G. Lambe Opticians at the time of its closure in 2001

Business closures

Our picture shows the staff of E. G. Lambe Opticians of Stoke Newington. When the business closed in 2001 they resisted the temptation to throw everything into a skip. Fortunately they knew who to approach and we eventually accepted 43 items into the collection.

When Batemans Opticians was subject to a predatory takeover by Vision Express in March 2009, our friends at VE invited us to visit the Batemans distribution centre in Godalming and help ourselves to anything of interest to the museum. That is why no museum curator should ever be without a car! We drove off with a total of 76 items.

We are very grateful to people like these, especially when helping the museum causes extra work for them, perhaps at a time that can be very poignant for them.

Downsizing and change of circumstance

Many collectors enjoy a lifetime of acquisitions, but then they grow old, tired or sick, or they move to smaller accommodation and suddenly their precious collection is at risk. Here at the museum we appreciate how much they will want to find a home that will value their collection as much as they did. When the late Alan Sherman retired he moved to a smaller house and his wife said 'Guess what's not coming with us', or words to that effect. He was delighted when the museum agreed to accept the large collection of figurines of optometrists, opticians and eye doctors that he had so lovingly assembled. Optometrist Peter Booth has also been a very generous donor to his College. In his case failing vision meant that he could no longer enjoy his collection as he once had, so he offered it to us. Peter was very understanding that museums cannot accept everything that they are offered and so in this case the collection was split, with key items being added to the museum collection and others sold via the Ophthalmic Antiques International Collectors' Club to raise money for retinitis pigmentosa charities.


It is very humbling when people who have known and enjoyed this museum leave their personal collections to us after their death. We recognise that it can also be a source of great comfort for their relatives to find a loving home for these objects, somewhere where they will be properly appreciated and cared for.

Royal Doulton character jug featuring a bespectacled Mr Pickwick

By all accounts the late David Pickwell, Professor of Optometry at the University of Bradford, and President of the British Optical Association from 1972-73, was a much loved character but his personal passion was collecting bespectacled character jugs. These have been bequeathed to the BOA Museum where they have certainly been turning heads since their arrival. Not all are especially antique; the item pictured is a Royal Doulton product from 1995 produced as an exclusive model for the International Collectors' Club. As a collection, however, they represent an attractive bit of ophthalmic fun collected from antique fairs, flea markets and car boot sales by an enthusiastic individual with an 'eye' for the unusual.

They include examples of  the potters' best art from Artone, Burgess, Dorling and Leigh, Cooper Clayton, Doulton, John Beswick Ltd, Lancaster & Sandland and Wood and Sons. Most are small jugs and one is a tiny teapot complete with a hat for a lid. Many depict the Charles Dickens characters Mr Pickwick or Bill Sykes. In this example we have both Mr Pickwick (wearing the gold spectacles) and Sam Weller, forming the jug handle. Only a few are rightly called 'Toby' jugs since a Toby Jug must represent the whole figure, not just head and shoulders.

Our Museum Collections Development Policy is reviewed by the Board of Trustees every five years and is a public document. The latest version was approved in July 2019.