Welcome to the British Optical Association Museum at the College of Optometrists, the museum of the eyecare professions, recognised as the oldest optical museum in the world. We are an accredited museum, open to the public (you need to make an appointment in advance), occupying beautiful historic premises in the very centre of London. Founded in 1901 by Mr J. H. Sutcliffe, Secretary of the BOA, this remarkable museum collection comprises over twenty seven thousand outstanding items.

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17th century spectacles - detail from a morality teaching picture painted by Jordaens

The museum collects objects and archival items relating to the history of ophthalmic optics (optometry), the human eye and visual aids, as well as the representation of these subjects in art. We are not just a museum of science, technology and medicine but of fine and decorative art and the social history of a profession serving people with visual impairment.

The collections are a nationally important resource for studying the development of the various sight-related occupations, from Medieval spectacle makers to today's highly skilled clinical practitioners in optometry and dispensing optics, as well as for the history of design, fashion and sensory disability. We have probably the world's most significant collection relating to the history of contact lenses as well as one of the finest publicly accessible collections of spectacle frames, artificial eyes and eyebaths. Many of the objects in the museum are rare or unique. They're certainly eye-catching...and we like to say we're the only museum where the exhibits look at you!

When the BOA voluntarily disbanded in 1980 the Museum was entrusted to the care of the its direct successor, the College of Optometrists. Now in its second century, it continues to be recognised as the oldest and one of the best optical museum collections in the world.

College Members as well as the General Public are welcome to visit the museum (by prior appointment), book a tour of the College meeting rooms, carry out relevant research using our rich archival resources, or write in with questions on which we can help. At our Central London headquarters we present both permanent and temporary exhibitions to visitors. These museum web pages serve as a record of some of our current and past exhibitions and, through virtual displays, allow us to share this rich optical heritage with an even wider international audience.

We invite you to take a look as you may be surprised by what you will see.

You can explore these 7 sections of the museum website

The British Optical Association Museum is a department of the College of Optometrists, which is permanently and professionally staffed. We welcome any enquiries of an historical nature.

You may contact the museum directly:

Neil Handley MA, AMA+, FRSA
Museum Curator
British Optical Association Museum
The College of Optometrists
42 Craven Street, London, WC2N 5NG United Kingdom
Telephone: +44 (0)20 7766 4353
Fax: +44 (0)20 7839 6800

For information on visiting the College of Optometrists to view the BOA Museum in person, either singly or in a group, please see the visiting pages.

MusEYEum Online Catalogue

Much of our collection can be viewed in our online catalogue

UK Museum Accreditation Scheme logo

UK Accredited Museum
No 2069

Member of the LMoHM

Arts Council funding logo
Recipient of PRISM funding
administered by
Arts Council England