Study and Research

Here we highlight just some of the BOA Museum's resources of potential interest to scholars.

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The College is most fortunate to have one of the most significant collections of optical trade literature in the world and new items are being catalogued almost daily. Coverage is mostly British, but with an increasing amount of international material (especially American and some European). These collections should be considered for use alongside those held separately in the BOA Library. To fully appreciate the depth of our archival holdings you will need to consult the online catalogues of both these College departments:

Library Catalogue (Heritage Online)

MusEYEum Online Catalogue

We are happy to provide scans of this material for private research use where copyright permits us to do so, but we will seek to make a charge commensurate with the work involved, which is often substantial.

We also outline below how we can assist with family history research.

Some Significant Historic Documents:

Declaration of indulgences (remission from posthumous punishment for sins in this life) issued by Pope Paul V to the benefactors of the Church and Hospital for poor blind persons in Paris (1607)

18th and 19th c. opticians' business receipts (e.g. from Dudley Adams, George Adams III, P & J Dollond, Benjamin Martin Jr, Henry Shuttleworth, Francis Watkins, Edmund Wells etc.). We hold the oldest known Dollond catalogue.

Two letters of the optician William Kitchiner to Sir Joseph Banks

Handwritten lecture notes of Dr Douglas Argyll-Robertson representing a very early account of the uses of an ophthalmoscope. Scottish (1863)

Correspondence received by Mr T. Henri Esq. Optician of Brighton: Letter of William Ewart Gladstone (1887), relating to a broken pebble spectacle lens and offering nine books as a reward for his attentions. Also a letter from the Irish politician and novelist Justin McCarthy (1892) relating to a promise by the author to his optician to take him some books as soon as he (the writer) recovers from sciatica

Correspondence of Dr T. M. Porter with the Carl Zeiss (Jena) company, 1890s

Correspondence relating to the Army Optical Appliances Depot in the Second World War

Correspondence of George Bernard Shaw with his optician John Cole, FBOA (May 1947-December 1949): Four letters, three postcards and a compliments slip in which the cantankerous old writer seeks correction of a bifocal lens, enquires what to do with his old lenses cases and frames, enquires about stronger spectacles for reading The Times at breakfast, performs a self-diagnosis after reading an article in The Lancet (written on Christmas Day!), cancels an order, refers to a helmet-mounted device for supporting a magnifier and asks for a replacement of a lens he has broken by walking upon it. He finally declares his new reading glasses to be a success, no doubt to the relief of all concerned

Also invitations, menu cards, optical prescriptions, order forms, business cards, ophthalmic letterheads, examination papers, apprenticeship indentures, scrapbooks, selection charts, grading scales, newspaper cuttings, advisory leaflets....etc.
We even have a tinned fish label and a chocolate bar wrapper!

The Harry Freeman Archive
A remarkable set of notes and photographs documenting the work of a renowned optical practitioner in London's East End, who was also an energetic teacher and occasional inventor. Harry Freeman established the London Course of Optometry (the records of which are included in this archive) and designed the Freeman-Archer Subjective Unit, wrote many articles and maintained links with former students from across the world.

The Paul Fairbanks / Arthur Bennett Archives
Both these men attached to the City University kept extensive cuttings files on topics of contemporary interest. These files, together with their notes and correspondence on modern and historic subjects have been amalgamated with the museum's records.

The Norman Bier Archive

Documents, papers and the personal scrapbook of this early contact lens specialist.

The Peter and Jean Hansell Archive

Notes, historical research, sales receipts and correspondence relating to forty years of collecting eyebaths / eyecups.

The UK Optical Archive

Papers, documents and photographs relating to Wiseman, BAO and UKO.

The Tim Bowden Archive

We hold the papers used by Tim in the preparation of his seminal history of contact lenses.

The Efron Scales

A small archive of original paintings by Terry Tarrant as produced for the well-known Efron Scales showing contact lens complications. Includes also some correspondence between Professor Efron and the artist.

Frederick Bateman Scrapbooks

Fascinating scrapbooks of press cuttings, advertisements and early magazine coverage of fashion eyewear from 1951, as collected by the late Peter Collings of Frederick & Bateman & Co. Ltd.

Trade Catalogues:
The Museum holds trade catalogues, price lists, promotional leaflets and other archival material relating to hundreds of manufacturing companies and suppliers. Coverage is somewhat variable and most of the material is post 1950 in date, with only a little pre 1930, but we are gradually remedying that.

We also have company magazines and regular newsletters, some of the most significant being from:

    American Optical Company (Wellsworth and Amoptico newsletters from 1911-1916)
    Keystone Magazine of Optometry (USA 1910-1912)
    Newbold & Bulford (Enbeeco News)
    Norville Group (Norville News)
    Silhouette (Journal Couture)

The Optical Yearbook published by the Hatton Press, is a goldmine of information on manufacturing companies and who owned which brand name. We have the editions from 1955, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1962, 1967, 1968 and 1970 and would be very pleased indeed if some kind person could donate more issues!

Don't neglect the College Library which holds books on the history of various companies including:

American Optical
Cutler & Gross
De Rigo (Police)
Serge Kirchhofer
United Kingdom Optical

RNIB Images of 20th Century Blindness

Our colleagues at the Arts and Heritage section of the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) have deposited in the Museum a CD of images drawn from the RNIB archive. Due to unresolved copyright issues these images can only be viewed on the museum premises, but here is a list to aid researchers.

 •Accessible products for everyday living 1981
 •Adding Machine
 •Assembling aero engines
 •Audible Thermometer at Worcester College
 •Belgian Musicians
 •Braille Chess Clock
 •Braille Gauge
 •Braille Map
 •Braille Music
 •Braille Periodicals
 •Braille Plate
 •Braille Production Collation
 •Braille ‘Scrabble’
 •Braille Watch
 •Chorley Wood Sixth Formers
 •Chorley Wood Student 1
 •Chorley Wood Student 2
 •Close-up of Tactile Map produced by RNIB
 •Deaf-blind Manual 1
 •Deaf Blind Manual 2
 •Early CCTV
 •Fellowship House
 •Geometrical Instrument
 •German Postcard 1
 •German Postcard 2 (Shows image of St Luke in spectacles!)
 •Indian Visitors and Demonstration of Maths Equipment
 •Jamaican Blind Motor Mechanic 1
 •Jamaican Blind Motor Mechanic 2
 •Japanese Studying Anatomy 1
 •Japanese Studying Anatomy 2
 •Let’s Have The Music!
 •Moon Alphabet 1
 •Moon Alphabet 2
 •Musicians 1
 •Musicians 2
 •NIB Braille Periodicals
 •Portable Braille Machine
 •Rhodesian Typing
 •Selection of Accessible Games and Hobbies
 •Student Using Perkins and Tactile Map
 •Tactile Chess
 •Tactile Globe
 •Tactile Image
 •Worcester College For Boys
 •Workshop 1
 •Workshop 2
 •Young Students Measuring Potatoes  

Family History Research

Was your grandparent an ophthalmic optician? We can check the early BOA registers starting in 1895 and examination records, from 1896, or the BOA Yearbooks for 1914, 1927, 1930, 1938, 1951 and 1960 (the only years which were published). The Blue Book of Opticians for 1939 provides a near comprehensive geographical listing for that pre-war year. We are also now able to check the exam records of the Worshipful Company of Spectacle Makers from 1898-1978. We have less complete records for some other membership bodies which amalgamated with the BOA and most GOC Registers ('The Opticians Register') from the first one published in 1960 to the last printed edition of 2005.
We do not charge for making such checks although the supply of photocopies or electronic scans will incur a fee.
Case Study:

Mr MacKenzie of Fife asked if we had any records of his father who died whilst his son was still a boy in 1930. We not only found a reference to him in the Institute of Ophthalmic Opticians Directory for 1927 but also his obituary in 'The Optician' journal. We were also able to explain the three less familiar sets of letters after his name.
Organisational Archives
American Academy of Optometry - Geographical Directory of Members 1970 (includes members in Great Britain and Northern Ireland)
Association of Contact Lens Practitioners - Minute Books 1949-1954, 1955-1967
British Optical Association
General Optical Council - Minute Books 1960-2004

General Optical Council - Opticians Register 1960-2005 (final printed edition)
You may consult the current Register on the GOC website. For enquiries relating to the years 2006-Present you will need to contact the GOC directly.

Glasgow Opticians Association

Institute of Ophthalmic Opticians - Official Directory 1927 (and some subsequent membership list updates)
Institute of Ophthalmic Opticians - Minutes of the Journal Committee 1921-1930
Institute of Ophthalmic Opticians - Minutes of Council and Committees 1930-1932
Institute of Ophthalmic Opticians - South Wales and Monmouthshire Local Association. Minute books 1922-1935, 1935-1940, 1947-1954; attendance register 1941-1963
Institute of Optical Science

International Optical League (IOL) / International Optometric and Optical League (IOOL) 1927-1996
Joint Academic Board (JAB)

London Course of Optometry
National Association of Opticians

Southampton and Hampshire Optical Association
Worshipful Company of Spectacle Makers - Livery List 1912, 1930, 1968, 1973, 1980, 1983, 1995, 1999, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2011
Worshipful Company of Spectacle Makers - List of Holders of the Company's Diploma in Ophthalmic Optics 1950, 1953, 1964 (the latter also includes holders of the Certificate in Optical Dispensing)

Worshipful Company of Spectacle Makers - newsletters From the Master and Wardens 1980-1984, 1990-Present


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