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List of Public Collections of Spectacles

Spectacle collections are available for public viewing at various sites throughout the world. Below is a list of where you might go to see groups of these wonderful artifacts related to our eyesight. We have tried to make it as complete as possible, but if you know of any other public places kindly inform us and we will amend this list. Spectacles are usually not on public display, even in large institutions and special arrangements might have to be made in advance to see what each museum has. Therefore it is advisable for any visitor to call ahead. Also the smaller museums may have reduced hours. Some museums and institutions already have detailed websites with useful information and images posted. You are encouraged to visit these websites first in order to decide which public collections you want to see in person. In addition, you’ll discover what other items they have which might interest you.


Certainly it would be impossible to name the numerous museums from all over the world with artwork relating to antique spectacles. But be assured that it is a wonderful experience to discover an early pair of spectacles in a painting or drawing. Pre-1800 examples are uncommon, so it is fun to discover an early example just resting in someone's fingers, hanging out of someone's pocket, or simply lying on a table. Especially with Medieval or Renaissance Art, it can be rewarding to locate any spectacles or even just their empty case. Keep your eyes open and you might be amazed at what you might notice.

It should be mentioned that at least here in the United States most of the local community historical societies have received donations of a variety of articles related to eyewear, and it is enjoyable to examine these items too.


Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna (Fabulous artwork and significant eyeglasses)

Technisches Museum, Wien


Kett Optometry Museum


Museum Walraversijde, Province of West-Flanders, Belgium


Museum of Visual Science and Optometry, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario

Redpath Museum, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Ethnology Collections (by appointment only to see several pair of 17th century Sinhalese spectacles in their original painted case)


Shanghai Glasses Museum


Jersey Museum, Jersey (By special appointment only)


Musee de l’Instrumentation Optique Biesheim

Musee Carnavalet - Musee de L'Histoire de Paris

Musee des Arts Decoratifs

Musee National des Techniques, Paris

Musee de la Lunette - Viseum, Morez (the Collection Essilor-Pierre Marly)

Musée National de la Renaissance, Ecouen, France


Bavarian National Museum

Brillenmuseum, Brillenhaus Wilke, Hamburg

Deutsches Hygiene Museum, Dresden

Deutsches Medizin Historisches Museum, Ingolstadt

Deutsches Museum, Munich

German National Museum, Nuremberg

Institut fur Geschichte der Medizin und Pharmazie, University of Kiel

Kunstgewerbemuseum, Berlin, Germany (wonderful historic objects in storage)

Museum fur Ur-und Fruhgeschichte, Freiburg (location of earliest spectacles case in the world)

Institut für wissenschaftliche Kontaktoptik, Ulm, Germany

Museum of the Cloisters, Wienhausen (location of  the earliest spectacles in the world)

Rathenow Museum, Rathenow

Optisches Museum Jena (Ernst-Abbe-Foundation)

Carl Zeiss Optical Museum, Oberkochen


Galleria Guglielmo Tabacchi – Safilo (Padua, Italy) (New digital museum related to eyewear)

Il Museo dell’Occhiale , Pieve di Cadore, Belluno (abundant imagery), also at

Institute and Museum of the History of Science, Florence

Luxottica Museum, Agordo (by special appointment only)

Museo Storico Nazionale dell'Arte Sanitaria Lungotevere in Sassia 3 - Rome, (Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9.00 to 12.00)

San Pantaleo, Rome (by appointment only to see the spectacles of Saint Giuseppe Calasanzio)

Santa Maria in Vallicella, Chiesa Nuovo, Rome, Italy (by appointment only to see the spectacles of Saint Philip Neri since the special rooms are ordinarily closed)


Iris Megane (Museum of Eyeglasses), Shibuya-Ku, Tokyo

Shirayama and Tokyomegane Archives and Gallery of Eyeglasses (S-T-A-G-E.), Tokyo


Frank Devlyn Optical Museum, Mexico City

Museum of the Hospital de la Luz, Mexico City


Archeological excavations exhibition, Zwolle

Nationaal Brilmuseum, Amsterdam

Museum Boerhaave

Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

University Museum, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands (Weve Collection of Spectacles, by special appointment only)


Cape Medical Museum, Cape Town

The H.S. Raybauld Collection, Natal Museum, Pietermaritzburg


Seoul National University Museum, Seoul


Museum of the History of Medicine, Barcelona

Museo Lara, Ronda

Museu Frederic Mares, Barcelona (Their collection is a hidden treasure)


The Nordic Museum, Stockholm


History of Science Museum, Geneva 

Museum of the History of Medicine, University of Zurich

The Medical History Institute of the University of Bern (Images of spectacles from the Otto Hallauer Collection will soon become available)

Ramstein Collection, Basel


Blair Castle, Blair Atholl, near Pitlochry, Scotland

British Museum, London

Lancaster City Museum, Lancaster

Museum of London, Barbican, London Wall, London (On display "Swan Stairs" rivet spectacles and "Trig Lane" to be added in the future)

Museum of the History of Science, Oxford

Museum of Science and Industry, Manchester

Royal Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh

Thackray Medical Museum, Leeds

The British Optical Association Museum, London

The Royal College of Ophthalmologists, Regents Park, London (mostly ophthalmic instruments)

The Science Museum (two collections), London

Victoria & Albert Museum, S. Kensington, London

Warwick-Castle, Warwickshire (a marvelous medieval room - Kingmaker with two wax figures wearing early spectacles)

Whipple Museum of the History of Science, University of Cambridge, Cambridge


The Alamo, San Antonio, Texas (to view their leather-framed spectacles)

Atwater Kent Museum, Philadelphia, Pa. (by special appointment only)

Bascom Palmer Eye Institute – Norton Library, Miami Florida

Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology, Boston, MA (to see the collection of the Optician's Association of America)

Bernard Becker, M.D. Collection in Ophthalmology and Optics at the Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO (a very comprehensive book collection)

Chester County Historical Society, West Chester, PA (by appointment only to see nearly three dozen McAllister spectacles)

Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Williamsburg, VA

Concord Museum, Concord, MA (by special appointment only)

Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford, CT (by special appointment only)

Field Museum, Chicago, IL (Tibetan eyeshades and many Chinese cases)

Franklin Institute, Philadelphia, Pa. (replica of Ben Franklin’s bifocals)

Friedenwald-Romano Library, Wilmer Eye Institute, Baltimore, MD

Groton Historical Society, Groton, MA (by special appointment only to see two leather framed spectacles)

Historic New England, Boston, MA (their large collection is only available for research purposes)

International Library, Archives and Museum of Optometry of the American Optometric Association, St. Louis, MO

International Museum of Surgical Science, Chicago. IL

Library of Congress, American Treasures Exhibition, Washington, DC (two pair of Abraham Lincoln Spectacles)

Monticello, Charlottesville, VA (by appointment only to view spectacles that belonged to Thomas Jefferson)

Museum of the Confederacy, Richmond, VA

Museum of Vision, Eyecare America, San Francisco, CA

Műtter Museum of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA

Mystic Seaport, Mystic, CT (by special appointment to see the nice collection of Eskimo snow goggles)

New York Historical Society, New York, NY

Ohio State University, College of Optometry, Columbus OH (contemporary spectacles of famous people - politics and Hollywood)

Old Sturbridge Village, Sturbridge, MA

Optical Heritage Museum, American Optical, Southbridge, MA (in the process of being brought public again)

Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA (unfortunately, their large collection is currently not available for public viewing)

Pilgrim Hall Museum, Plymouth, MA

Shelburne Museum, Shelburne, VT

Smithsonian’s American Museum of History and Technology, Washington, DC
A. Political History Collection
B. Division of Science, Medicine, and Society

Virginia Historical Society, Richmond, VA (to view the Patrick Henry spectacles and the Thomas Sully painting – the remainder of the collection by special appointment only)

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