Online exhibitions

Online exhibitions based upon the collections of the British Optical Association Museum at the College of Optometrists in London. You may visit the virtual galleries in order, or just jump in and see what you can find! We hope you'll be inspired to visit the real thing but please note that we do not have the physical space to cover all these topics in our permanent displays!

Share options

Explore these online exhibitions

Virtual art gallery

Explore some of the paintings and sculpture owned by the College of Optometrists...

Virtual artificial eyes gallery

As far back as the 5th c. BC Roman and Egyptian priests were making eyes from painted clay...

Virtual colour vision gallery

Difficulties with colour perception, popularly known as 'colour blindness' affect millions of people, but significantly more men than women. Optometrists can test for these misperceptions. The result is not just of academic interest as defective colour vision can have important occupational safety implications.

Virtual contact lenses gallery

'Invisible lenses' were a technology which was once expected to spell the death knell for spectacles, but instead served to widen the choice of vision correction devices, with many users choosing to wear both.

Virtual eye and vision gallery

We take an historical and an artistic look at the most sophisticated optical instrument of all: The human eye itself, as well as the 'men of vision' who sought to explain the mystery of sight...

Virtual microscopy gallery

We look at the world of microscopes from an optical and social perspective. We mark the contribution of the early microscopical pioneers and also that of Ernst Ruska, who, if not exactly bringing the optical side of the story to an end, took microscopy in a direction the museum cannot follow.

Virtual numismatics gallery

Coins, medals and tokens in the College collections.

Virtual observatory gallery

Man's quest to look at the heavens has driven many developments in the history of optics. We consider the topic of astronomical optics, with particular reference to how it affected the work of the opticians who supplied hardware to the 'business' of astronomy.

Virtual ophthalmic instrument gallery

On the following pages we provide information on instruments for refraction, surface examination of the eye and internal illumination. There are instruments for checking your existing spectacles or lenses and even some quite sophisticated chairs!

Virtual ophthalmic lenses gallery

The derivation of the word 'lens' comes from its shape when viewed in profile, which was considered by someone (who arguably need spectacles) to resemble a lentil. We often refer to a 'pair of glasses'...but very few spectacle lenses these days are made of glass. Most will be of plastic.

Virtual philately gallery

This is an online exhibition about the College stamp collection - which is a lot more interesting than it may at first sound! All of the stamps in our themed collection have some optical significance.

Virtual playhouse gallery

We present for your delight a broad definition of what constitutes optical entertainment. Not all of it is savoury, but it all involves lenses or visual effects...

Virtual print room gallery

In the Print Room you will find images to delight the eye. Many of them are about the eye. All have some optical relevance. So do some of the print frames! You'll also discover that the method of hanging an historic print room could provide a visual feast in itself.

Virtual spectacles gallery

This online exhibition is the result of several decades of research carried out by museum staff and supporters. The text has been subject to detailed peer review and is constantly revised to reflect the latest scholarship. We believe this is the most reliable history of spectacles available on the web.

Virtual 'Students Past' gallery

Students past is an ongoing project of the museum to record the historical experience of studying optometry in the UK. If you have memories of university life that you would be willing to share, please get in touch. Three and four-year courses were not introduced until 1949 and the required standards were not raised to those of university entrance until the 1960s. The expansion of higher education in the 21st century has led to a sharp increase in the number of course providers.