British Optical Association

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The British Optical Association (BOA) was founded in 1895 as the first professional body for ophthalmic opticians (optometrists) in the world.[1]


The BOA ran the first professional examinations in optics in 1896 and provided the Secretariat for a number of other optical bodies including what would eventually become the Association of Optometrists and the World Council of Optometry.[citation needed] In 1980, the BOA joined forces with the Worshipful Company of Spectacle Makers and the Scottish Association of Opticians (now disbanded) to found the British College of Ophthalmic Opticians (Optometrists); in 1987, the title was changed to British College of Optometrists, known since 1995 as the College of Optometrists.

The BOA published the Dioptric Review and the British Journal of Physiological Optics on its own in-house printing press.[citation needed] It administered several higher qualifications including the Diploma in Contact Lens Practice and awarded the BOA Research Medal. Fellows of the British Optical Association were entitled to use the affix FBOA.[citation needed]

British Optical Association Museum[edit]

The British Optical Association Museum was founded in London, England, by John H. Sutcliffe OBE in 1901 as a collection of historic spectacles and visual aids designed to illustrate the development of corrective eyewear.[2] It subsequently expanded its collecting activities to encompass ophthalmic instrumentation and the depiction of optometric subject matter in works of art such as paintings, prints and sculpture. With over 16,000 catalogued objects (including archives) it may be judged one of the most comprehensive and high quality collections of its type.[3] It is believed to be the oldest such museum to be open to the public.[4] Many of its objects are rare survivals and several are unique.

The museum is located at the College of Optometrists at the north end of Craven Street, adjacent to Charing Cross railway station in Westminster. Visits to the museum gallery are free and by advance appointment only.

The BOA Museum provides a heritage service to the College, the WCSM and the wider optical professions. The public may visit the exhibition rooms (the Sutcliffe Room and Giles Room) by prior appointment or pay for a guided tour of the College meeting rooms in which various exhibits are displayed. Museum staff are available to give external lectures and objects are frequently lent to temporary exhibitions at other accredited museums in the UK and occasionally overseas.

The BOA Museum is a UK Accredited Museum and a member of the London Museums of Health & Medicine.[4]


  1. ^ Mitchell, Margaret (1981). History of the British Optical Association (1895–1978). The British Optical Association Foundation. 
  2. ^ Handley, Neil. "British Optical Association Museum". The College of Optometrists. Retrieved 26 August 2016. 
  3. ^ "British Optical Association Museum". TripAdvisor. Retrieved 11 November 2015. 
  4. ^ a b "Medical Museums". London Museums of Health & Medicine. Retrieved 26 August 2016. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 51°30′28″N 0°07′31″W / 51.5078°N 0.1254°W / 51.5078; -0.1254